Monday brought about some encouraging news for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Injured left tackle Naasir Watkins, who was expected to miss another week or two, has actually progressed enough that he may play Saturday against Vanderbilt, Mark Stoops announced Monday.
“Naasir is getting better, that’s good,” said Stoops. “I said last week I didn’t think we’d have him this week, and I think there’s a good chance we’ll have him available this Saturday, so that will be good for him as well.”
Watkins had been in a timeshare with EJ Price for the starting left tackle spot, though Price had begun locking it down before Watkins was injured in Week 5 against South Carolina.
Speaking of injured lineman, center Drake Jackson was injured against Texas A&M and probably would not have played in Week 6 if Kentucky didn’t have a bye week. Thankfully, Jackson got a week off and is progressing well toward being able to play vs. Vanderbilt.
“Drake Jackson is a guy, he needed it after the A&M game. It would have been hard for him to play if we played this Saturday. He’s one that jumps out immediately,” Stoops said of players who needed the bye week.
But perhaps the best news to come out of Monday was with Josh Paschal. The sophomore edge rusher is still working his way back from his battle with melanoma, and Stoops shared an encouraging update during Monday’s meeting with the media.
“We’re very encouraged by Josh, his recovery and what he’s doing,” said Stoops. “Maybe I’ll have a nice smile on my face and good update here in the next couple of weeks.”
It’s unclear if that means there’s a chance Paschal plays this season. Due to the new redshirt rule, Paschal could return and play in four games at the end of the season and still be eligible for a redshirt, making him a redshirt sophomore in 2019 vs. being a true junior.
It’s hard to envision Paschal playing in the regular season with just over a month left, but perhaps he could return to play in a bowl game in late December/early January.
Regardless, just hearing that Paschal is making good progress in his recovery is all that really matters.
One other note: Stoops revealed that wide receiver Clevan Thomas will now redshirt. Thomas was vying for a starting spot coming into the season, but he’s been unable to even get on the field thanks in part to the emergence of David Bouvier and frankly the offense not getting much going in the passing game.
Fellow receiver Akeem Hayes is injured and now off the depth chart.
All in all, Kentucky is as healthy as you can ask for of a college team set to begin the second half of its season, especially in the middle of SEC play.
Kentucky Football Week 8 Depth Chart
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