Younger players to get quality playing time at Texas A&M


Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Kash Daniel (56) reacts after a play during the game against Central Michigan on Saturday Sept. 1, 2018, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 35-20. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Kyle Field seats over 100,000 people and is probably one of the most difficult places to play in the country, especially for younger players.

The rowdy crowds and massive stadium can be overwhelming for players who are still getting used to SEC football. Ideally, coaches try to avoid giving freshmen quality playing time in an environment like Kyle Field, but that’s exactly what Kentucky will have to do when they face the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday. 

“How you can get them prepared for Kyle Field? Good luck,” head coach Mark Stoops said in his weekly press conference. “We’ll be simulating that.”

Kentucky’s two freshmen who fans will see a bit more than usual are linebacker Chris Oats and offensive lineman Darian Kinnard.

Oats was listed as the team’s starting middle linebacker on Kentucky’s depth chart due to Kash Daniel being forced to sit out the first half in the game against the Aggies.

Daniel has been the starting middle linebacker for the Wildcats through the first five games, but Daniel was ejected for targeting in the second half against South Carolina, and his disqualification carries over into the first half of the game against Texas A&M.

“I support the call, I have to because again, the way the rule reads, and I didn’t even question it at all, if it’s called on the field and they review it, if there’s any contact at all with the facemask, then it’s going to be upheld,” Stoops said.

Oats has seen action in all fives games so far, totaling six tackles, all of which have comes in the three most recent games.

“Chris [Oats] get another opportunity this week and Jamin [Davis] will get some reps as well,” Stoops said. “Between Chris and Jamin, we’ll play MIKE and I’m excited to watch them play.” 

While Daniel’s absence certainly does not help the defense for the first half, giving Oats and Davis some playing time, even at Kyle Field, is something Stoops can find positives in.

“Don’t want to see our guys get ejected or disqualified for a half either, but with that being said, it always gives the next man an opportunity to go in there and see what he can do,” Stoops said.

On the offensive side, Kinnard is expected to get some additional playing time due to Naasir Watkins’ injury, which will keep him out for “several weeks,” Stoops said. 

Kinnard is the primary backup for both tackle positions on the offensive line, backing up E.J. Price at left tackle and George Asafo-Adjei at right tackle. Kinnard has already played in two games this year and will likely lose his redshirt while filling in for Watkins. 

“We’ve been real close to playing Darian anyway,” Stoops said. “Again, it’s an opportunity to go in there and play and we’ll be excited to see how he does.”

Oats, Kinnard and the rest of the Wildcats will look to go to 6-0 for the first time since 1950 when they face the Aggies on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN.