LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach Joker Phillips still isn’t sure if senior offensive guard Stuart Hines will start against Western Kentucky on Thursday, but at least now he knows he’ll play.
Hines has missed most of the preseason training camp with a knee injury. However, he went through all but the final five minutes of Saturday’s practice on the second team and seems close to being ready for the season-opening game in Nashville, Tenn.
“I¿am trying to make it back for this first one,” said Hines, a preseason all-Southeastern Conference pick and permanent game captain. “I am definitely getting closer. Getting on the field the last two days has made me feel better and gives me more confidence about getting back for the first game.”
The game is extra meaningful to Hines because he’s from nearby Bowling Green.
“I will probably have at least six or seven family members there and then all that western Kentucky crowd will be coming down to watch us play. It will be a little like a homecoming,” Hines said. “I definitely do not want to miss this game.”
Hines has spent far more time watching practice this August than normal. That has given him a chance, though, to evaluate UK’s offense from a different perspective.
“I feel pretty good about things. We started out camp with four of us (offensive linemen) getting hurt. We had some younger guys in and struggled, but you have watched everybody improve until now,” Hines said. “That has been a neat thing to watch because when you are playing you are caught up in everything and trying to get better yourself. You don’t really notice that, but I did this year and I see guys getting better.”
Hines said not to worry about injuries nagging the line all year even though guard Larry Warford hurt a toe Saturday — “he’s got nine more, so he’ll be fine,” joked Phillips — and center Matt Smith needed treatment as soon as practice ended.
“I don’t really think it is something we need to worry about. All the injuries are pretty insignificant,”Hines said. “Nobody has really got anything too bad. Mine is probably one of the most serious and I¿am almost back to full health. It is just something that you deal with playing football. Part of the game is injuries and being able to manage it.”
Collins out: Kentucky suffered its first major injury last week when freshman receiver Daryl Collins dislocated his right kneecap and will need surgery Thursday, the same day his teammates open the season against Western Kentucky. He will redshirt even though he could have possibly returned later in the season. However, UK¿coach Joker Phillips since he was not yet entrenched in the top six of UK’s playing rotation, it would be best to redshirt him.
“He was going to be a part of the mix, but he was still a freshman; he was still learning," receivers coach Tee Martin said. "He was starting to show signs that he was going to be a part of the mix then the injury came. He'll get the opportunity to continue to learn, rehab and we'll see him in the spring."
Collins, an Alabama product who originally committed to Alabama, said on UK’s Media Day that he was the “fastest” freshman receiver on campus. UK signed five receivers, but has lost three — Nile Daniel did not qualify academically, Josh Forrest has been moved to defense and Collins is injured. That leaves Demarco Robinson and Rashad Cunningham as true freshmen receivers trying to work their way into the playing rotation.