Friday, August 27, 2004

For better or for worse


Brooks remains confident despite uncertainty around UK

By Michael Smith / The Courier-Journal


Kentucky coach Rich Brooks is known for his honesty. He says this season could go "in a lot of different directions."
The Associated Press/ED REINKE


Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd will take over for Jared Lorenzen, who threw for a school-record 10,354 yards in his career. Kentucky's offense is tailored to Boyd, who likes to run and throw.
The Associated Press/ED REINKE

M O R E   I N F O R M A T I O N
2003 IN REVIEW

Record: 4-8

Date Opponent Result
Aug. 31 Louisville L, 40-24
Sept. 6 Murray State W, 37-6
Sept. 13 at Alabama L, 27-17
Sept. 20 at Indiana W, 34-17
Sept. 27 Florida L, 24-21
Oct. 9 at S. Carolina L, 27-21
Oct. 18 Ohio W, 35-14
Oct. 25 Miss. State W, 42-17
Nov. 1 Arkansas L, 71-63
Nov. 15 at Vanderbilt L, 28-17
Nov. 22 at Georgia L, 30-10
Nov. 29 Tennessee L, 20-7


BY THE NUMBERS

4-8 Rich Brooks' record in his first year as head coach.

13 UK starters returning, five on offense, eight on defense.

10,354 Yards former QB Jared Lorenzen threw for in his career. That includes 78 TDs.

1,156 Yards new starting QB Shane Boyd has thrown for in his career. That includes six TDs.

6-4, 260 Height and weight of Lorenzen, who was questioned throughout his career about his weight.

6-2, 228 Height and weight of Boyd.

88 Rank of UK's rushing defense last year among D-IA schools, a factor that will need to be improved upon this year.

26.8 Average points UK allowed last year.

1 Cartilage tear in DE "Sweet Pea" Burns' knee that required arthroscopic surgery in mid-August. The defensive leader hopes to be back for the season opener.

19 Consecutive games Tennessee has defeated UK. The Wildcats will get their chance to break that in the final game of the season.


Coaching staff

Head coach: Rich Brooks

Mike Archer: Defensive coordinator

Steve Brown: Defensive backfield

Ron Caragher: Running backs

Paul Dunn: Offensive line

Michael Gray: Defensive line

Ron Hudson: Offensive coordinator

Ron McBride: Inside linebackers

Steve Ortmayer: Special teams

Joker Phillips: Wide receiver, recruiting coordinator

LEXINGTON - Rich Brooks quickly earned a reputation for honesty in his first season as the University of Kentucky's football coach.

He was quick to judge that UK's talent wasn't good enough and if some players got their feelings hurt, so be it.

When Vanderbilt clubbed the Wildcats 28-17, the low point of UK's 4-8 season, Brooks said what everyone else was thinking:

"We got our (rear ends) kicked for 60 minutes."

As difficult as last season was, it could get worse before it gets better. NCAA penalties have left the Cats with about a dozen fewer scholarship players than their NCAA Division I-A peers.

But that doesn't mean the Cats have taken a "woe is me" approach to the season.

"There's uncertainty going into this season with what people think this team is capable of doing," Brooks said. "I think our players are confident that we can play well."

Offense

UK's offense goes into the season with question marks at every position, except receiver.

If Shane Boyd can make the most of an offense that is tailored to a running-passing quarterback, the Cats think they can move the ball and create enough big plays to forge a potent offense.

UK's offseason convinced Boyd that this team is capable of repeating the surprising 7-5 season it had in 2002.

"There's a lot of doubts right now, but being around these guys all these years, there's a different feeling now, an even better feeling than the year we went 7-5," Boyd said.

While Boyd figures to make his share of big plays as a runner and a passer, especially with receiving targets like returnees Keenan Burton and Glenn Holt, the running game remains the team's primary source of concern. Arliss Beach and Draak Davis will get much of the work behind an inexperienced offensive line.

"I believe we're not going to be desperate on offense like some of the predictions out there," Brooks said. "We'll be all right and we might be better than all right."

Defense

The defense contends that it will be better than last season, when it held 11 of its 12 opponents to 30 or fewer points.

Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns, UK's senior defensive end, is touted as one of the best in the SEC, while the top two tacklers from last season, linebackers Dustin Williams and Chad Anderson, return as well.

Williams probably will miss the opener against Louisville because of a torn hamstring. Burns hopes to be back in time for the opener after having arthroscopic surgery this month.

UK also might have a hidden gem in Raymond Fontaine, a junior outside linebacker.

The sleek Canadian weighs in at just 220 pounds, but he's one of the fastest players on defense, regardless of position, and his game-high nine tackles and two sacks were the defensive highlight in the spring game.

Special teams

The Wildcats' top concern is replacing playmaker Derek Abney on special teams, where he tied an NCAA record with eight career kick return touchdowns. Burton and redshirt freshman John Logan each returned a kickoff for a touchdown during the spring game.

Coaching

With Brooks, the cover usually tells a lot about the book, a quality he picked up from his father, a former deputy sheriff in Northern California. And nothing about Brooks has changed in Year 2 as UK's coach.

"This is a year that can go in a lot of different directions," he said bluntly at a time when others ooze optimism.

This is the job Brooks signed up for, one that keeps a hand tied behind the coach's back for a few years with scholarship reductions and recruiting limitations.

Next year, barring any further problems, UK will be off probation and Brooks will be able to bring in the full complement of 25 signees in the 2005 class. He projects it will take a few more years before his team builds up to the maximum of 85 scholarship players.

Intangibles

While the question marks remain many, the Cats know they're better off in at least one regard - this group has a better grasp of what Brooks and his assistants expect and they know the system.

That, and time, have helped wipe the residue from last season's many disappointments. What's to come, no one seems sure.

"It's still a work in progress," Boyd said.

Make-or break games

UK might be able to take advantage of teams coming off down seasons, including Ohio (2-10), South Carolina (5-7) and Vanderbilt (2-10). But it's the rivalry games fans get excited about. UK opens Sept. 5 at the University of Louisville.

With Enquirer wire reports

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