Flannigan's Return a Boost Entering Matchup with Mobile Mizzou QB

Ryan Flannigan was in the middle of what had become another normal day for him last week, rehabbing a shoulder injury that forced to miss almost the entirety of fall camp.

All of a sudden, it flipped. Flannigan found he was able to keep his arm straight in a strength test exercise, which meant he was healthy enough to test the shoulder in a contact drill.

Since the injury happened in a collision with defensive lineman-turned-fullback Jacob Hyde, it was natural for Flannigan to worry about how his shoulder would respond.

That didn’t take long to go away.

“I was a little nervous coming back, but once I got that first pop it all went out my head,” Flannigan said.

Just like that, concern that the injury would linger throughout the linebacker’s senior season melted away. Just like that, he was cleared to dress for the Florida game, though he sat out since he hadn’t had a single live rep in practice all week.

“I was in their ear all night,” Flannigan said. “It’s not something you want to do, is just sit there and watch the team play knowing could do something to help out. It wasn’t my time.”

Now it is.

It’s been full steam ahead for Flannigan in practice all week ahead of Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. match with Missouri. Middle linebacker Josh Forrest couldn’t be happier to have his running mate back.

“He looked really good today, actually,” Forrest said. “I’ve seen him make a few good plays today. He definitely looked real good out there.”

Flannigan fit in on Tuesday, as UK turned in a solid practice, according to defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot. The Wildcats are coming off an impressive defensive effort in 14-9 loss to Florida, but Flannigan only figures to help.

“I think that Ryan is very athletic, so he’s very good in space, he’s a very good blitzer, he triggers really fast,” Eliot said. “His biggest attribute is his speed and his athleticism.”

Considering UK’s struggles defending Florida quarterback Will Grier (61 rushing yards) on scrambles and Missouri’s Maty Mauk’s ability to make plays with his feet, that speed and athleticism is a welcome addition.

“It is nice to have,” Eliot said. “It is nice to have a guy that’s that fast and that can cover a lot of ground like that.”

Flannigan’s presence, however, won’t be a magic elixir. Only with hard work and discipline will UK improve.

“We showed players how we could execute that better and how we could keep him in the pocket a little bit better, and not only that, but when we have him dead (to) rights, get him down,” Eliot said. “That was part of our problems and we were able to point it out to them and practice it, and hopefully that helps us into this game.”

“That’s what we’ve been focusing on a lot,” Forrest said, “making sure we stay in our rush lanes, everybody understanding rush lanes and if you’re a free rusher where to rush and things like that.”

Flannigan is confident the Cats will execute.

“Just containing him,” Flannigan said. “He likes to run a lot. Just trying to contain him. Like Coach says, if we do our job, we’ll be able to shut anything down.”