Brooks remains optimistic

December 01, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - When Rich Brooks came to Kentucky, he indicated the Wildcats could be good enough to earn a bowl bid during his first season.

Instead, the Wildcats finished Brooks' first year with an 4-8 record after Saturday's 20-7 loss to Tennessee.

Brooks was criticized for not passing the ball as often as he indicated he would, not relating well to his players and not being nearly creative enough with his offense.

"If I remember what I said, I said whether it was realistic or not, my goal would be to take this senior class to a bowl game," Brooks said. "It would probably have been a lot more realistic if we still had (running back Artose) Pinner running through tackles again because he was something special and we didn't have that this year.

"But I didn't want to back away from the bowl talk. If I came in and said what my gut told me that we had a lot of work to do before we should be talking about bowls, then people would have just said I was making excuses."


Brooks made it clear Saturday that he knew what he was getting into when he ended his brief retirement from NFL coaching to return to college coaching.

"When I took this job, I felt this was the right decision. I knew when I got here that I had a lot of work to do," Brooks said. "There are a lot of things behind the scenes that still need done that I won't go into that people don't understand and know about. I'm just as excited as when I got here.

"We are going to be a young team on defense next year. Do we still need more speed? Yes. Do we need to get more athletes? Yes we do. I think we are off to a pretty good start in doing that."

Brooks, recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips and other UK coaches planned to hit the recruiting trail this week not only to seek new commitments, but also to try to make sure those who earlier made verbal commitments to Kentucky don't change their minds.

The Cats will have to replace three starters in the offensive line as well as quarterback Jared Lorenzen and receiver-return specialist Derek Abney. The defense loses just two key players - tackle Jeremy Caudill and cornerback Leonard Burress.

"It's hard to replace a guy like Abney, or a guy like Lorenzen," Brooks said. "In most other spots, we should be improved."

One reason is because Brooks' players should have a smoother off-season. Last year, coach Guy Morriss left after leading UK to a 7-5 mark to become head coach at Baylor. It was early January before Brooks and his staff arrived and their first priority had to be recruiting. When that ended, it was close to time for spring practice to start.

Most returning players thought the off-season workouts were harder than ever. However, Brooks says the players have to get stronger and faster before next season and that workouts will be even more strenuous this year.

"I knew this would be a tough transition for them," Brooks said. "But I think the players knew, or should have known, how much we wanted good things for them. Our actions were always in that regard. We were trying to do the best things we could for them.

"You need to do things your way, but a lot of the things we did on offense, even though people don't understand it, were the same things they did last year. We were calling different plays, but they were basically the same plays. Defensively it was a bigger change than offensively, even though the perception was the opposite and that it was the offense, not the defense, that was radically different. That just was not true."

Central Kentucky News Articles