Hartline, Cats return to practice

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After the coaches spent a week on the recruiting trail and the players prepared for final examinations, the Kentucky football team returned to practice Saturday morning with a two-hour workout in the Nutter Field House.

The major news was the return of quarterback Mike Hartline, who – except for a brief appearance in the Vanderbilt game – has been out of action since incurring a knee injury at South Carolina on Oct. 10.

“Hartline did 7-on-7, 1-on-1 (drills) and all of that, and if he doesn’t have any setback we’ll increase his reps into the team period tomorrow,” Brooks said. “What I was impressed with was his accuracy. When he came back before we played at Vanderbilt, he was throwing it accurately but when he had to move he couldn’t move. We didn’t stress that today. There’s no soreness right now, there’s no swelling. We’ll see how it reacts from what he did today and increase that on a daily basis and hopefully he won’t have any setbacks. We have two more practices (Sunday and Monday) and then he’ll get a three-day break before a Friday night practice next week.”

With All-Southeastern Conference performer Sam Maxwell out of the bowl game because of shoulder surgery, Brooks also addressed the situation at strongside linebacker. Junior Jacob Dufrene and true freshman Ridge Wilson have played a lot this season on special teams, but have seen limited action as Maxwell’s backups.

“It’s a little early to tell,” Brooks said. “Dufrene knows what he’s doing. Ridge has to pick it up and get more familiar assignment-wise. They’re getting a lot of work right now, so I think they’ll be fine.”

Brooks reported that players missing practice today included defensive tackle Antwane Glenn (illness), defensive tackle Corey Peters (shoulder injury), tight end Nick Melillo (shoulder), and linebacker Ronnie Sneed (shoulder and shin). Tight end T.C. Drake returned to practice after missing most of the last month because of a severe groin strain.

Brooks turned his attention to Clemson, Kentucky’s opponent in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.

“They’re a really good football team,” Brooks said. “They were a tremendous team (when UK played Clemson in 2006), they’re a better team now. (All-America tailback C.J.) Spiller was a freshman at that time and sharing carries. He’s a major weapon. They have great receivers, big physical, offensive line, tremendous talent on defense – they’re the real deal.”

The Wildcats battle the Tigers on Sun. Dec. 27 at 8:30 p.m. EST at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.

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