October 29, 2009 8:15:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
University of Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks knows sophomore Ronnie Sneed can play linebacker.
He just didn''t know he''d have to ask him to prove it this quickly.
With the potential of not having senior All-Southeastern Conference linebacker Micah Johnson available at 6 p.m. Saturday for his team''s game against Mississippi State (Fox SportsNet South), Brooks might turn to Sneed.
"He''s inexperienced but has a pretty good future," Brooks said of Sneed. "This may be the time we''re going to find out."
Johnson (team-high 55 tackles) strained the medial collateral ligament in his knee and hasn''t practiced this week. Brooks hopes to get him on the practice field today, but doesn''t see how he could be at 100 percent by Saturday.
Brooks said Sneed (230 pounds) isn''t as big as Johnson (258 pounds), but knows the system.
"(Sneed) has done some good things," Brooks said. "He''s been in it long enough to do a good job on the reads and he understands what we''re trying to do. He just doesn''t have the physical presence at (Johnson) does."
The Wildcats (4-3, 1-3 SEC) are last in the league in rushing defense, giving up 174.1 yards per game.
Being unsettled at linebacker concerns Brooks as the SEC''s third-leading rusher Anthony Dixon and the Bulldogs come to town.
"It will be a big challenge," Brooks said. "Whether we have Micah Johnson or not will impact our ability to do as good a job as I would like to do. If we don''t have him, it makes the job of stopping (Anthony) Dixon even more difficult."
Johnson isn''t Kentucky''s only injured defender. All-America senior cornerback Trevard Lindley is doubtful with a high-ankle sprain.
If Lindley can''t play, it will be the fourth consecutive game he has missed.
The Wildcats are prepared to face MSU without Johnson and Lindley.
"It''s a big deal, but we just need to continue to rally as a team," senior defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "If everyone steps up and plays a little bit harder, we can make up for it."
On the offense, junior quarterback Mike Hartline is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury.
Brooks said the injuries don''t just stop with Johnson, Hartline, and Lindley.
"Everyone has a little something wrong with them whether it be turf toes, pulled groins, tweaked ankles, bruised shoulders, or bruised backs," Brooks said. "It''s a physical game. There are very few guys feeling 100 percent."