Willis will miss 3-4 months and other notes

Cornerback Nate Willis will miss the next three to four months as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

Willis, a junior college transfer, had 35 tackles, including two for a loss, and tied for a team-high five pass breakups. He started seven games for the Cats last season and missed the final three games with a knee injury.

The 6-foot senior from Pahokee, Fla., was starting to show progress before getting hurt, coaches said.

“It’s always hard when you have an injury and you got to be out, because you miss all those reps,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said.

“That frustration sets in, but you always got to look at things on a positive note. He knows that he’ll be back in time for the season, so he just has got to get the mental reps until then, and then when he comes back, he’s just got to be clicking on all cylinders.”

Has anyone stepped up as Willis has been out?

Well, Fred (Tiller) has gotten reps at corner, and Cody Quinn’s getting a lot of reps at corner,” Eliot continued. “J.D. Harmon has been getting a lot of reps over there.

“So we’re just kind of rotating them, and different days different guys do different things good and bad. It’s a long ways away, so it’s tough to tell who’s gonna be our guys.”

Other notes

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops has started to ponder the setup for the Cats’ annual Blue-White Spring Game. “We’ve got a lot of guys banged up right now, either from off-season surgeries and then new injuries, we’ve got to see where we’re at and I’d like to just let the kids have some fun and draft teams and have some fun with it that way and split it up, but that depends on depth,” he said.

  • The quarterback battle is always the hottest of position topics heading into the spring game. Stoops named a couple of others that he’ll be paying close attention to: the running back battle and settling into rotations at spots like wide receiver and defensive line. As for the QB race, Stoops said he’d like to see “where we’re at with the pecking order of the quarterbacks. If we can figure it out in the last week, we will. If not, we’ll continue to work through it.”
  • Kentucky is reporting that 25,000 of the available 42,500 tickets have been distributed for the Blue-White Spring Game on April 26 at 3:30 p.m. Tickets can be obtained online at Ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster (800) 745-3000. There is a service charge on the free tickets. Tickets can be picked up on game day at the stadium based on availability.

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at jsmith3@herald-leader.com.
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