Brooks plans to 'shape' Cats into winners


August 06, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Conditioning is a priority for first-year Kentucky coach Rich Brooks.

If his players didn't sense that during spring practice or summer workouts, that message will be hammered home again today when returning players as well as incoming freshmen report for preseason practice.

"We need to be in great shape," said Brooks. "I think we can surprise some people this year, but we have a lot of work to do. We've stressed the importance of being in great shape. I hope they are all in great shape. But if they think they've been killed this summer, then they will be killed when we start practice. We are going to be a well conditioned team."

Brooks readily acknowledges that he has a solid nucleus of players but that Kentucky lacks the depth of most Southeastern Conference teams it will face.


"We need to be lucky and stay healthy," Brooks said.

Kentucky was both last year when it finished 7-5 under then coach Guy Morriss. The Wildcats did not have a starter miss a game because of an injury.

Brooks won't take unnecessary risks in practice that might lead to numerous injuries. However, he says that doesn't mean UK cannot be in "great" playing shape.

"There is a difference in contact and conditioning," the Kentucky coach said. "Cardiovascular and endurance are conditioning concerns. You don't have to beat players up to be in great condition. You can just do repetitions and speed work so that players don't tire in the fourth quarter.

"Because of our lack of depth, we cannot substitute and stay at the same level of play. Our top players will have to be on the field more than our opponents' best players will be. Look at the history of Kentucky in recent years and they've lost too many close games they had a chance to win. We want to win those games because we are in great shape."

Brooks said the Cats had more contact in spring practice than past UK teams had because his staff needed to find out who the best players were.

"We have a better feel for that now," Brooks said. "We may throw a little more contact at the new players, but it will not be a daily bloodletting in practice. We are just going to do what we feel is best to get this team ready to play and win against Louisville."

Kentucky starts practice Thursday and will have split-squad workouts through Monday. From Aug. 12-22 the Cats will have two practices one day followed by a single workout the next day.

Gaining: Linebacker Joe Schuler of Evansville is one of the true freshmen that the Kentucky coaching staff hopes can make immediate contributions this season.

Schuler will report along with other players today and his father says he's been waiting for this day.

"He is anxious to get practice started," said Paul Schuler. "After playing in our state's North-South All-Star Game, he has been like a caged cat. He's really worked hard this summer. He has added another 15 pounds of muscle without losing any speed. He weighed 249 pounds yesterday (Monday)."

Jones official: Defensive back Andre Jones of Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., is officially a Kentucky Wildcat again. He originally signed with UK in February of 2002, but did not enroll because of academic concerns. However, he re-signed with UK about two weeks ago and has been cleared to report with other players today.

"He's the kind of player we need. He's fast and versatile. He'll give us some needed speed on defense," UK coach Rich Brooks said.

Ticket update: Only scattered single tickets, priced at $40 each, remain for Kentucky's opening game against Louisville Aug. 31 in Commonwealth Stadium. Single-game tickets are still available for UK's other six home games and are priced at $29 and $22.

Upper-deck sideline season tickets remain available for $214 each. End-zone season tickets are available with a required donation to the K Fund. Tickets are $172 each plus the donation.

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