Two players expected to provide defensive depth and special teams plays both have left the Kentucky football team.
Sophomore linebacker Qua Huzzie has decided to transfer after dropping to third on the depth chart behind starter Ronnie Sneed and backup Avery Williamson, while senior safety Josh Gibbs decided to give up football.
Huzzie came to Kentucky with huge expectations after a stellar career at LaGrange (Ga.) where he had 473 tackles, including 55 for loss, and played on multiple state championship team. That’s the same program that sent all-Southeastern Conference linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Braxton Kelley — both now in the NFL — to Kentucky and Huzzie’s cousin, DeMoreo Ford, was a UK receiver. Even more ironic is that Huzzie’s high school coach, Steve Pardue, joined UK¿coach Joker Phillips’ staff in December as running backs coach.
Huzzie seemed set to play as a true freshman in 2009 before a shoulder injury forced him to redshirt. He played in eight games in 2010 with 17 tackles but also was limited by injuries. He did get a start against Florida and had three tackles and his only tackle for loss.
No one ever questioned Huzzie’s passion or drive. However, at 5-10 his size may have worked against him at middle linebacker, and rather than play a limited role this season, he’s opted to transfer to a school where he can play more and no one should blame him for that.
Gibbs transferred to Kentucky from College of the Canyons in California after the 2009 season. He went through spring practice in 2010 and played in 13 games last season with 10 tackles and was a special teams regular. He had 72 tackles, six interceptions and six pass breakups in two junior college seasons.
Gibbs’ mother, Shelly Poling, says her son had a “lot of things going on” that led to his decision to walk away from football.
“He has a baby now and he also just feels that he wasn’t played right last year,” Poling said. “He was probably not going to play this year, either. He’s just upset about the whole program.
“In the spring game he had a pick six (interception return for a touchdown) and Fan Day he had a pick (interception) and fumble recovery and felt no one really recognized that. It’s just a tough situation, and if his heart just was not in football any more, what can you do.”
His mother says the family is trying to “figure out” his next move and “hopes and prays they allow him to continue to go to school” even though he’s left the team.
Here’s hoping Kentucky will, too. Obviously, his scholarship can’t be filled now and if a player is not 100 percent on board, it’s better for him and the team if he walks away rather than just goes through the motions to keep his scholarship.
“I talked to the coach. There are no hard feelings,” Polling said. “He shook their hands. He wants to continue school. He tried his hardest at UK. He did his thing. But he’s the kind to follow his heart and his heart just is not in football right now.”