Koger's skill nice match for Kentucky's defense

February 20, 2004|Larry Vaught

What Koger, a transfer from Dodge City (Kansas) Community College, does best is rush the passer. What Kentucky's defense needs most is someone who can harass, pressure and sack opposing quarterbacks next season.

"What I do best is speed rush," said Koger Thursday following his weightlifting workout. "I can also stop the run, but I like the speed rush better than anything else.

"When I was being recruited, I talked to all the coaches about how I would fit in. Coach (Mike) Archer said what they needed would be what I do best. That's why I decided Kentucky was the best place for me."

He projects as an outside linebacker, perhaps the key position in Archer's 3-4 defensive alignment. The 6-4, 248-pound Koger had 31 tackles last season, including 11.5 for loss and 5.5 quarterback sacks.


Kentucky assistant coach Ron McBride came to watch Koger and his teammates work out Thursday. McBride likes what he's seen so far from Koger, who is originally from Okeechobee, Fla., where he earned all-state honors.

"He's tall and lean," McBride said. "He's going to get stronger and bigger. He looks like a playmaker to me."

Koger, like UK's other four December junior college signees, has had about one month to adjust to his new teammates and the more rigorous demands of a Southeastern Conference football program. He says McBride is already his favorite coach and seems like a "cool guy" based on the way he relates to players.

He had a realistic idea about what to expect because one of his Dodge City teammates played high school football with UK receiver Glenn Holt, who was Koger's host on his official visit last season. Koger got to watch UK's epic seven-overtime loss to Arkansas.

"He told me Kentucky was a nice place to be," Koger said. "Since we are both from Florida and I knew one of his friends, I knew he would not say anything wrong to me. I knew he would tell me the truth about how things are around here, and he did."

Koger admits he did not know a great deal about the Wildcats when they started recruiting him. He did know that Rich Brooks was the head coach and that Kentucky played in the Southeastern Conference. After that, he mainly drew a blank when it came to Kentucky football.

"You don't hear a lot about Kentucky in Florida," Koger said.

Koger didn't hear a lot from many schools coming out of high school. Not only was he a three-year starter at defensive end and tight end, but he was also a four-year starter on the basketball team. He also met all NCAA eligibility requirements.

He had offers from South Florida and Central Florida, but felt he could do better.

"I just decided junior college would be a good learning experience," Koger said. "They said they would treat me well and make me a better player, and they did. Plus, I wanted to get used to college life and get ready for the next level. It worked out well for me."

He knows he'll have to prove himself in spring practice if he wants to have a chance to be a playmaker next year. UK returns outside linebackers Deion Holts, Durrell White and Raymond Fontaine, but Koger thinks he can make the adjustment from defensive end to linebacker well enough to earn a spot in the playing rotation.

"I'm used to playing with my hand down (on the ground) and now I'll be standing up," Koger said. "But once I get used to that, I'll be fine. I just have to go out and prove I can play."

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