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Who will miss the 2021 Gator Bowl due to injury and Covid-19/NFL draft opt-outs

The Gator Bowl will take place without NC State All-ACC defensive tackle Alim McNeill and Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph, each of which opted out to prepare for the NFL draft.

North Carolina State v North Carolina Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

While healthy players rarely skipped bowl games a decade ago, the practice has grown in popularity among college athletes in recent years. The pandemic-affected 2020 season has seen even more opt outs than usual, with players choosing to skip the season before it began or leaving their respective teams to prepare for the NFL draft.

The Gator Bowl is no exception to these trends, as both the N.C. State Wolfpack and Kentucky Wildcats each saw players leave for the pros. Each team also expects multiple players to miss the game due to injury.

NC State roster update

Injury

The game day roster release has sophomore linebackers Drake Thomas and Payton Wilson unable to play. Wilson was an All-ACC first team selection. Wide receiver Jasiah Provillon will not play in Saturday’s game due to an undisclosed injury. Starting quarterback Devin Leary remains out with a leg injury while redshirt sophomore linebacker Khalid Martin continues to miss time with a hip injury.

Opt-out

In December, defensive tackle Alim McNeill announced his intention to forego his senior season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Along with teammate Isaiah Moore, McNeill earned first-team All-ACC honors in 2020.

Kentucky roster update

Injury

Reserves Jamari Brown, Taj Dodson, and Torrance Davis enter the game questionable to play with undisclosed injuries. The Wildcats will not have the services of linebacker J.J. Weaver (knee) and Chris Oats (undisclosed medical emergency from offseason). Keaton Upshaw is on the depth chart and should be able to play.

Opt-out

Back in early December, cornerback Kelvin Joseph opted out of the remainder of the year to prepare for the upcoming NFL draft. Joseph led the team with four interceptions, one of which he returned for a score.

Coaching change

Keep in mind UK head coach Mark Stoops fired offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and QB coach Darin Hinshaw after a 41-18 win over South Carolina to end the season. Associate head coach Vince Marrow will call plays in today’s game.