LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Coming off its first season without a bowl appearance since 2005, Kentucky has its sights set on returning to the postseason.
The challenge became more difficult when one of its projected starters at cornerback was ruled academically ineligible on the eve of training camp.
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said Friday cornerback Marcus Caffey will miss the 2012 season. Phillips made the announcement during Kentucky's annual media day.
Phillips said Caffey will remain in school and practice with the team. Phillips had raved about the 5-foot-11, 192-pound redshirt freshman throughout spring practice, comparing him to former Wildcats' All-Southeastern Conference cornerback Trevard Lindley.
"I've always said the hardest thing about being a freshman is to get them to be sophomores," Phillips said.
Caffey, who was a star running back in high school, had excited the Kentucky coaching staff after moving to cornerback in the spring.
The loss further thins a position that had only player on the preseason depth chart with a college tackle. The Wildcats graduated both starters from last season — Anthony Mosley and Randall Burden — and were counting on Caffey to step into one of those vacant spots.
To offset the loss, Phillips said former cornerback-turned-safety Martavius Neloms would move back to corner. The senior played 21 games — 10 as a starter — at cornerback. He had 69 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 186-pounder moved to safety last year, and was third on the team in tackles with 71
"When you start thinking about moving a guy to corner Martavius, because he's played there, was the best option," Phillips said. "He's probably the most athletic safety we have and most physical guy."
Phillips also said starting quarterback is wide open between Morgan Newton, Maxwell Smith and freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow. Newton began 2011 as the starter before giving way to Smith.