Vaught's Views: Boyd the right choice for Cats at QB

April 26, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - If there is one thing about Kentucky's offense that should be clear now that spring practice is over, it's that there is no quarterback controversy.

Shane Boyd and Andre Woodson came into spring drills 1-2 on Kentucky's depth chart, but Woodson was given ample opportunity to show that he could unseat Boyd, or at least challenge him when preseason workouts begin in August. However, there's little doubt Boyd remains UK's best quarterback.

He should be because he has one thing - game experience - that no other Kentucky quarterback has.

Boyd has played in 26 games the last three years and started six times. He's completed 110 of 216 passes for 1,156 yards and six touchdowns.

Woodson? He'll be a redshirt freshman next season. He's yet to throw a pass in a game. He spent last season running the scout team, not learning offensive coordinator Ron Hudson's system in practice and games like Boyd did as Jared Lorenzen's backup.


Joe Joe Brown? He's the incoming freshman quarterback from Georgia who has the physical skills UK coaches think are necessary to direct the offense. While some freshmen quarterbacks are good enough to play, it's rare and Brown likely is not one of those special few capable of starting as a true freshman.

He has game experience and has dealth with daily pressure

Not only does Boyd have game experience, but he also has experience dealing with the daily pressure on a big-time quarterback. He's going to be second-guessed and critiqued win or lose. Boyd dealt with some of that in 2001 when he briefly moved ahead of Lorenzen and started. He's dealt with more of it the last two years when he stayed just a tad behind Lorenzen.

"A lot is put on the quarterback to get the team in the right plays and to call plays that will work," Boyd said after Saturday's Blue-White Game that ended UK's spring practice. "There is a lot for the quarterback to know and do. He runs everything. I wouldn't call it pressure, but there's a lot you have to be able to do.

"For me, it's getting easier this year. We've had a few offenses since I've been here. Every year it has been something new. Finally I've been in the same offense two straight years and that has made things a lot better this spring."

Boyd has flaws. He's no Tim Couch. He has to get more accurate with his passing - "quarterbacks need to work on that every day," Boyd says - and he has to learn not to throw drive-killing interceptions like the one he did Saturday and the two other passes he threw that could easily have been intercepted.

"He has to learn that you can't make two or three good plays and then give the ball away," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said.

But he seems to have made a concerted effort this spring to provide more leadership. Even though Hudson was not thrilled when Boyd elected to spend part of the spring tossing his 90-mile-per-hour fastball for the UK baseball team, Boyd did not miss any football workouts and he did seem to improve during practice.

He was 9-for-16 passing Saturday for 160 yards. He also ran for 30 yards and one touchdown on three carries before being held out of the second half because of a bruised thigh.

Woodson may have had best game of the spring

Woodson may have played better Saturday than he has all spring. He was tentative most of spring practice and often confused by UK's defensive coverages. He throws a soft ball, one receivers say is easy to catch, and seems most accurate on deep passes.

He finished the game 7-for-12 passing for 76 yards and ran 10 times for 11 yards, including four sacks, before being hurt in the second half when he had his "bell rung" after he was hit trying to avoid UK's pass rush.

"I've been telling him since last fall that he had to learn this is the SEC," Brooks said. "When he decides to scramble, he's got to do so with a sense of urgency instead of like it is a walk in the park. He's got better, but I probably won't have to remind him again."

Playing time will also help Woodson get better, but Kentucky cannot afford to play for 2005 and waste 2004 while Woodson learns. Worry about 2005 when it gets here, not this season, because too much can change.

Boyd insists he's not "the man" even though both Hudson and Brooks have made it clear the No. 1 job is his to lose.

"Spring practice is all about getting better. I think I've done that. It's all about executing what you know how to do," Boyd said. "I think everyone is understanding the offense better and by the time the season starts, maybe we'll surprise some people."

For that to happen, Boyd's experience will be needed to help offset an inexperienced offensive line, the lack of a marquee running back and no proven tight end. Boyd will have to be able to prod for weaknesses in opposing defenses and use his passing and running ability to make plays because even an improved UK defense is not going to shut down many SEC opponents.

That's why no matter what weaknesses he may have in his game, Boyd is still the best option Kentucky has at quarterback for next season.

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