Kentucky Wildcats may lose most experienced defensive lineman for season

August is the time of year when football coaches and fans alike cross their fingers and hope that news emanating from camp is of a positive variety.

The Kentucky Wildcats got the opposite on Monday.

UK head coach Mark Stoops announced following the Cats' morning workout that defensive lineman Regie Meant will be on an indefinite leave from the team.

"Regie Meant will not be with us for a while," Stoops said. "He'll be out indefinitely for personal reasons. I ask that you respect that and leave it alone. It has nothing to do with football or us or playing or anything like that. It has to do with himself."

Meant, a 6-foot-4, 302-pound junior from Cape Coral, Fla., is UK's most experienced defensive lineman with 21 career games and four starts to his credit. He was slated No. 1 on the depth chart coming off a sophomore year which saw him record 31 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack. He had 18 tackles and two sacks as a redshirt freshman. 

Kentucky was already seeking to fill the void left by departed seniors Cory Johnson (67 TK, 8.0 TFL, 2.0 SK) and Melvin Lewis (20 TK, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 SK).

"It is a blow to us and our depth on the D-Line, but other guys will step up, and will continue to do that," Stoops said.

Meant was a multiple-technique player capable of manning both tackle and end in UK's multiple fronts. End is considered the biggest question mark on the Cats' defense entering the 2016 season. Stoops said Monday that the staff needs players like senior Courtney Miggins, junior Alvonte

Stoops said Monday that the staff needs players like senior Courtney Miggins, junior Alvonte Bell and sophomore Kengera Daniel -- all ends with no career starts for the Cats -- to step up and become bigger factors in camp.

The departure also places more attention on junior Matt Elam, a former U.S. Army All-American. The 6-foot-7, 360-pound nose guard from Elizabethtown, Ky., has been praised by the staff for his improved work ethic and conditioning entering his third season with the Cats. He had 23 tackles as a sophomore reserve.

Meant was one of UK's more vocal leaders on the defensive side of the ball. Asked who may fill that role, Stoops said junior tackle Jacob Hyde would be ideal. It's a key one due to the presence of so many inexperienced players in the unit. Sophomores Adrian Middleton and Tymere Dubose, as well as junior college transfer Naquez Pringle and freshmen Kordell Looney, T.J. Carter and Ja'Quize Cross may all have a greater opportunity to join the rotation now.

Long Seeks Transfer

Stoops also announced Monday that sophomore tight end Darryl Long has informed the staff of his intention to transfer. The Westerville, Ohio, native was listed third on the depth chart behind emerging star C.J. Conrad and Nebraska transfer Greg Hart entering camp. He had also seen freshman Justin Rigg emerge as another challenger for playing time.

"We wish Darryl the best and everything he did for us," Stoops said.

The 6-foot-4, 246-pound Long played in 10 games last season, primarily on special teams. The former three-star prospect redshirted in 2014 due in part to an injury. He is the eighth player from that class to transfer and the ninth overall no longer in the program.

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