Wildcats wrap up with White win

April 25, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Finding a replacement for return specialist Derek Abney was one priority for Kentucky during spring practice.

Keenan Burton and John Logan both showed they certainly have game-breaking ability here Saturday by returning kickoffs for touchdowns during the Blue-White Game that ended UK's spring practice.

Burton returned the game's opening kickoff 93 yards and Logan followed later in the first half with a 99-yard return that showed how he ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.3 seconds during UK's Pro Day.

"I watched a lot of film during the offseason knowing how hard it would be to fill Abney's shoes," said Burton, who also had a game-high four catches for 99 yards in the White's 28-17 win. "There's really no filling his shoes. It's rough just trying to catch all the punts and kickoffs because he never dropped any.


"Returning the first kickoff for a score was a big deal, but it means more when you can do it on Saturdays (during the season) like Abney did. When the time comes to do it against Florida, Georgia or Louisville, that's when it is an even bigger deal."

Burton and Logan were both in Rich Brooks' first recruiting class at Kentucky.

While Burton got to play last season, Logan redshirted. He was also slowed part of spring practice by a leg injury. That's why his kickoff return was a much bigger dose of confidence for him.

"That boosted my confidence a lot," Logan said. "Last year I didn't understand the playbook, so I didn't get to play. That gave me a chance to show myself, and others, that I could make plays.

"Replacing Abney is going to be tough. But maybe Keenan and I can be the future of UK and start a new era for Kentucky. I know I've still got to be more physical, but I can work on getting stronger this summer."

Brooks said the kick return team had an advantage be-cause the Wildcats had worked on it during spring drills and the kick coverage team also was without frontline players. Still, he liked what he saw on the two big returns.

"What it shows is that we have a couple of guys who can do damage on kickoff return if we block for them," Brooks said.

Brooks thinks Kentucky will be able to replace Abney's pass receptions, too, even though he led the team in receiving the last two years.

"There is not any doubt we are going to have playmakers step up at receiver," Brooks said.

The coach's only real disappointment Saturday was with his first-team defense, which returned nine starters. The unit gave up only three points, but was not as intense or sharp as Brooks had seen at other times this spring.

"They gave up two or three long third-down conversions and just did not play as well as they have most of the spring," Brooks said.

"Our offense did some good things, but our defense just has to be better than that."


n Receiver Tommy Cook sprained his right knee on his first play and did not play again. He is UK's leading returning receiver.

Since Cook is also the No. 1 holder for extra points and field goals, Boyle County freshman Jacob Tamme held for kicks the rest of the game.

Brooks said Cook heard a "pop" when he planted his leg and the coach said he's worried the injury is serious.

Cook will have an MRI Monday to determine the exact damage.

He missed games early last season because of bone spurs in his ankle and then broke his ankle in UK's final game.

* Tamme had three catches for 35 yards. In the previous scrimmage he had four catches for 45 yards.

"He's definitely shown us he can play," UK offensive coordinator Ron Hudson said.

* Other players injured during the game included quarterback Shane Boyd (bruised thigh), running back Arliss Beach (ankle), quarterback Andre Woodson (head), tackle Michael Aitcheson (shoulder) and cornerback Antoine Huffman (knee).

* Kentucky's only turnover in the first half came when Kurt Jackson fumbled after catching a pass.

* Clint Ruth kicked a 47-yard field goal, the only field goal the Cats made. The only other try was a 50-yard effort by Taylor Begley that he never had a chance to get off the ground because Tamme bobbled the snap.

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