Flannigan should provide boost for Kentucky defense


By Jeff Drummond - This Week in BBN



The Kentucky defense is expected to get a boost this week in the form of a healthy Ryan Flannigan.

The senior weakside linebacker missed the Wildcats’ first three games of the season due to a shoulder injury he sustained during fall camp. He was expected to be one of UK’s better defensive players entering the 2015 campaign.

“He was cleared late in the week but hadn’t had a rep or hit anybody live,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said during Monday’s weekly press luncheon. “We even took him out there Friday and had some pads on people and let him hit a little bit, and he felt good. He just hadn’t had a lot of reps. It is very big to have him back this week. He will be full-steam ahead. Get him in there and get him ready to go this week.”

Kentucky (2-1, 1-1 SEC) plays host to Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC) on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium in what could be another defensive-oriented matchup similar to Saturday’s 14-9 win by Florida. The Tigers enter the game having allowed only 29 points this season.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Flannigan played in all 12 games last season after transferring from Blinn College. He was fourth on the team in tackles with 57, including 12 against Tennessee and 11 against Louisville in the final two games of the season.

Asked what Flannigan brings to his defense, Stoops said: “Ryan was really playing some great football. You heard us talking about him throughout the spring and throughout the summer. He was really playing fast and explosive. Anytime you’re getting a player like that back, you’re happy.

“Khalid (Henderson) will still get some reps and play and maybe back us up at both spots and be able to help because he’s done some really good things for us. I really appreciate the great effort he’s given us and really played well at times. It’ll be good to get Ryan back as well and get that depth because we’ve been pretty thin there.”

It’s a good time for Flannigan’s return. Missouri features a mobile quarterback, Maty Mauk, who is adept at both designed running plays and extending pass plays with his ability to scramble. Last year in Columbia, Mauk was the Tigers’ leading rusher with 14 carries for 75 yards. The UK defense played a solid overall game in a 20-10 loss, but the Wildcats’ fortunes could hav been much different had they not allowed Mizzou to convert 50 percent of its third-down situations.

“Ryan is very athletic, very good in space, triggers really fast,” UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. “… It’s nice to have a guy who’s that fast, who can cover a lot of ground (when you’re facing a mobile quarterback).”

While Kentucky gets some help at the thin linebacker position group, there is a question mark on the defensive line. Sophomore Regie Meant sustained minor shoulder injury in the Florida game. Stoops said the medical staff originally thought he’d be doubtful for this week, but gave a favorable update on his situation Monday morning. He’s been upgraded to questionable.

“Regie was really doing some good things before he got hurt,” Stoops said. “Then he hurt that shoulder. That was a little bit disappointing because he is the type of guy that every time he takes the field and plays more he’s getting better and better. Just reps and playing, getting a feel for that game experience. He’s getting better and better.”

Senior Cory Johnson, who played what the UK staff described as perhaps the best game of his career last week, will step into Meant’s position if Meant is unable to play.

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By Jeff Drummond

This Week in BBN

Jeff Drummond, a former sports editor for the Harlan Daily Enterprise, is currently the publisher of AllWildcats.com on the Scout network. The site features comprehensive UK team and recruiting coverage.

Jeff Drummond, a former sports editor for the Harlan Daily Enterprise, is currently the publisher of AllWildcats.com on the Scout network. The site features comprehensive UK team and recruiting coverage.

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