LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Coming off its first season without a bowl appearance since 2005, the Kentucky football team has 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 football coach Joker Phillips said Friday cornerback Marcus Caffey has been ruled academically ineligible and will miss the 2012 season.
Phillips made the announcement about one of his projected star starters during Kentucky's annual media day.
The coach 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 academic casualty further thins a position that had only player on the preseason depth chart who had recorded a tackle in their career. 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 in 21 career games with 10 starts as a cornerback, registering 69 tackles and three pass breakups. The 6-foot-1, 186-pounder moved to safety for the 2011 season and ranked third on the team in tackles with 71, while adding an interception and five pass breakups.
"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 declared the quarterback battle wide open among senior Morgan Newton, sophomore Maxwell Smith and true freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow. Newton began 2011 as the starter before giving way to Smith.