Mark Stoops takeaways: No update on Chris Rodriguez as Kentucky football preps for Florida

Brett Dawson
Louisville Courier Journal
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In hindsight, Mark Stoops said, his Kentucky football team wasn’t so bad last Saturday. 

The Wildcats struggled to pull away from Miami (Ohio) in the first half, then hit the gas after halftime to ease to a 37-13 win. And though there were early defensive issues and some offensive line problems, UK “did some really good things,” Stoops said Monday at his game-week news conference. 

But No. 20 Kentucky (1-0) will need to do even better ones this week as it travels to face Florida (1-0), an upset winner over No. 7 Utah in Week 1. 

To that end, there are some changes in the lineup. But they don’t include the return of a star to the depth chart. 

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The most notable news from Stoops’ weekly meeting with the media: 

Chris Rodriguez update: No update

Kentucky’s Chris Rodriguez Jr. during practice on Wednesday.
Aug. 24, 2022

Running back Chris Rodriguez was missing again from the Kentucky depth chart released Monday, but Stoops had no update on his likely suspended star. Kavosiey Smoke remains the UK starter. 

Asked Monday if he had an update on Rodriguez’s status, Stoops said, “I wish I did.”

Rodriguez was unavailable for the Miami (Ohio) game, and Stoops said last Monday he expected to have "a few (players) to have multiple-game suspensions,” he declined then to specify which players were suspended, including Rodriguez. 

Stoops confirmed linebacker Jordan Wright was unavailable for the season opener, and he too remained missing from this week’s depth chart. 

But Stoops provided no update at this week’s news conference, reiterating that he is not making personnel decisions alone. 

“I've been advised that I just need to stay mum on this situation,” he said. “It's not Mark Stoops. It's out of my hands.”

Rodriguez was arrested just after 3 a.m. May 8 and charged with driving under the influence and careless driving. He pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle under the influence during a July 5 pretrial hearing. Stoops has not clarified if Rodriguez’s absence is tied — or solely connected — to the arrest. 

Rodriguez ranks sixth on Kentucky's career rushing yards list (2,740) after running for 1,379 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. 

Offensive line update: Kentucky makes a change

Kentucky’s Barion Brown celebrates, with teammate Jeremy Flax, after scoring a touchdown against Miami of Ohio.
Sept. 3, 2022

Will Levis took too many hits Saturday — and not just because he’s still throwing himself into contact when he scrambles. The Kentucky quarterback was sacked four times, a potentially ominous sign for a rebuilding offensive line

But Stoops said UK “played a little better than we thought at four of the five positions” on the o-line. And he’s making a change at the fifth. 

Kennth Horsey is first on the depth chart at left tackle for the Florida game, moving from left guard. Horsey replaces redshirt freshman David Wohlabaugh, who struggled against Miami in his first start. 

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Horsey played some snaps at tackle last season. 

“What we’re looking for is getting our best five on the field,” Stoops said. “We feel like we’ve got to experiment with this and look at it. We’ve done it before. It’s not something that’s unusual to him.” 

Freshman Kiyaunta Goodwin remains the backup at left tackle. UK will “continue to bring Kiyaunta along” as it tries Horsey on Levis’s blindside this week. 

Goodwin got some late snaps Saturday, but Stoops had hoped to get him in the game in the first half. With the Cats’ offensive line issues, “it just didn’t happen,” Stoops said. 

Despite those issues, Stoops is confident UK will iron out the line. He noted that it’s happened after slow starts before. 

“I remember being in here discussing with you either last year or the year before, several years, everybody hitting panic mode on the offensive line,” Stoops said. “We seemed to pull it together pretty quickly. So I don't think it'll be an issue this year as well.” 

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Injury update: Ramon Jefferson sidelined

Rodriguez wasn’t the only notable running back absent from Kentucky’s depth chart. 

Ramon Jefferson, who was second on the depth chart last week, was injured against Miami and will be out “for several weeks, for the extended future,” Stoops said. Backup JuTahn McClain also suffered an injury against the RedHawks, and his status is week to week, Stoops said. 

Redshirt freshman La’Vell Wright is listed as the backup. Wright carried three times for 10 yards in the opener. Stoops on Monday called him a “tough physical runner” and said,“we have a lot of confidence in him” with his role likely expanding this weekend in Gainesville. 

Kentucky carried 26 times for 50 rushing yards against Miami.

Backup linebacker Trevin Wallace, who missed the Miami game, is expected to return for Florida. Wallace “had a minor injury” last week and “just wasn’t 100%,” Stoops said. 

Reach Louisville men’s basketball reporter Brett Dawson and and follow him on Twitter at @BDawsonWrites.

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