Brooks knows significance of playing an in-state rival

August 27, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - He's coached in the Rose Bowl and the Super Bowl, but Rich Brooks still understands the significance of Kentucky's season-opening game against Louisville Sunday.

"It's an important game and a great rivalry," said Brooks Tuesday. "In the nine years the game has been played, it has taken on big significance in the state.

"No matter who you play in state, you don't want to be on the losing end. We are playing for the right to live in the state of Kentucky and I'm sure it's no fun if you are on the other end of the score."

Kentucky is considered the favorite going into Sunday's game, a position that befuddles the first-year UK coach.

"We are (the favorite)?" Brooks said. "That's news to me. I don't know how in a rivalry game with two new staffs how you can put a line (for the favorite) on. Both teams are going in pretty much unknown."


Brooks has tried to speculate on what new Louisville coach Bobby Petrino might do. He will have a new starter at quarterback in Stefan LeFors and will be depending on transfer Eric Shelton, a Lexington Bryan Station product who stayed at Florida State just one year, to provide the running game.

"I think we will see a variety of formations," Brooks said. "I think we will see them use two tight ends quite a bit. I think they will run the ball quite a bit. They like their backs, as they should. They will also probably spread the field some to see how we cover it. But it is my guess that they want to get the running game going."

Davis, Bwenge are starting

Kentucky will try to do that, too. Brooks and offensive coordinator Ron Hudson have decided to start junior college transfer Draak Davis at tailback with Alexis Bwenge, the No. 1 tailback after spring practice, at fullback.

"We've got to get the ball to Draak," UK quarterback Jared Lorenzen said. "He's pretty special."

However, Kentucky won't be conservative.

"We want to utilize the players we have. Jared has been down the road and had success. There's no sense just handing the ball off for three yards and a cloud of dust," Brooks said. "We want to run, but we want to mix up our offense. I would even be shocked if Shane Boyd is not in the game in the first quarter with Jared. We've been practicing with both quarterbacks and we'll use Shane different ways."

That's fine with Lorenzen because he has confidence in Hudson's offense.

"We are going to throw the ball, too," Lorenzen said. "We have a diversified offense. Coach Hudson has not given me the game plan yet, but he's big on taking what the defense will give us. We may not know until the game unfolds exactly what we are going to do."

Brooks is taking almost the same approach to the kicking game. He was ready to name junior Sevin Sucurovic the starting punter to replace Glenn Pakulak before Sucurovic faltered in last week's scrimmage. Now he may not name Sucurovic or Anthony Thornton until just before game time.

Ruth has moved ahead of Begley

He's not settled on a placekicker, either. Former Boyle County kicker Taylor Begley was UK's top placekicker last year, but a leg injury cost him a week of practice and Clint Ruth has now moved ahead of him on the depth chart. Begley made three field goals in last year's 22-17 win over Louisville in his collegiate debut.

"Begley kicked yesterday for the first time since he made a 51-yard kick in our last scrimmage," Brooks said. "I'm not sure whether I will kick Ruth or Begley because Begley missed so much time and Ruth has been very accurate. I'm just glad we have two good kickers."

Center Nick Seitze will snap for placekicks for the first time. Win Gaffron and Jason Dickerson are still competing for the job to snap on punts.

"They are both snapping a lot better, but they still need to be more consistent. That and punting are still concerns," Brooks said.

UK Notes: Brooks said that freshman linebacker Joe Schuler has been tried at outside linebacker and may no longer be redshirted. ... Starting outside linebacker Deion Holts is now listed as questionable for Sunday's game after experiencing back pain after Monday's practice. ... True freshman cornerback Andre Jones returned to practice Monday and Brooks said he could "be a factor" against Louisville.

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