The Kentucky Wildcats have been a little shorthanded this season on the offensive line, but no one really knew where the unusual absence was coming from.
On Thursday during his pre-Alabama press conference, head coach Mark Stoops was asked about the status of Naasir Watkins, arguably the best offensive lineman coming off the bench for the Cats.
As it turns out, Watkins had knee surgery months ago and is out for the 2020 season, creating a depth issue on the line.
“Naasir is out for the year with his knee injury,” Stoops stated. “He had surgery a while back. He’s getting better and going through his rehab.
Watkins has been getting regular playing time on the Cats’ outstanding offensive line since he made his debut back in 2018 as a redshirt freshman when he filled in for the injured Landon Young.
With all of the attention going towards the impressive play of Young and Darian Kinnard, the player that regularly gives them a breather slipped through everyone’s minds.
Speaking of, there’s a good chance Kinnard enters the NFL Draft after this season, and Young is a fifth-year senior who’s already graduated. It’s unlikely he returns for a sixth year, so Watkins is very likely to be one of the starting tackles for the 2021 season. It’s unfortunate he didn’t get more development this year, so hopefully it doesn’t affect him too much for 2021.
Aside from Watkins, another Cat was mentioned in the day’s injury update.
Tight end Brenden Bates, who was getting to see a lot of playing time for the Cats and hauled in a 14-yard reception against the Mississippi State Bulldogs before taking a shot to the knee. That hit has kept him sidelined ever since, but Stoops had an encouraging update.
Stoops said that Bates has been running with the training staff on the practice field. However, he noted that he will not be ready to go against Alabama, but we should expect to see Bates on the field again before the end of the season.
The Cats will face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday at 4:00 pm EST on the SEC Network in Tuscaloosa.
You can check out everything Stoops had to say heading into their matchup with the Tide below: