UK Notebook: Freshmen offensive linemen can get playing time

August 11, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Normally it's hard for an incoming freshman to earn significant playing time in the offensive line.

It can happen as Antonio Hall showed four years ago when he came to Kentucky and immediately earned a starting tackle position that he didn't relinquish for four years.

That's why UK coach Rich Brooks is hoping one or more true freshmen linemen can help the Wildcats this season. The most highly-touted lineman is Micah Jones of Mayfield, but Kane Hannaford of Florida and Aaron Miller of East Carter will also get a chance to make their mark early. However, Hannaford reported at 360 pounds, about 30 more than he was scheduled to have.

Kentucky lost three starters off last year's line. Junior college transfer Ernie Pelayo, who missed spring practice because of an injury, is now healthy and being counted on to push for a starting position.


Walk-on center Matt McCutcheon, a transfer from Navy, weighs 14 pounds more now than he did when spring practice ended with him No. 1 and he's also improved all his lifts. Backup center Travis Slaydon was hurt in a summer bicycle accident that could force starting guard Jason Rollins to continue taking some snaps at center.

"But we are still thin on the offensive line and a lot of freshmen are going to get looked at," Brooks said Tuesday during UK's Media Day.

Brooks said it won't take long for him and offensive line coach Paul Dunn to tell if Jones, Hannaford and/or Miller can help this year.

"First, you see if they are ready physically. Do they get thrown around by bigger defensive linemen or do they hold their own against bigger players," Brooks said. "Then do they pick up the concepts and do things they do best naturally without too much trouble?

"They all always look good in shorts. Once we get in pads, you can tell whether they will be overwhelmed or not or if they can be ready to play."

Brooks said he's not going to hesitate to play any true freshmen who can help the Cats this year.

"Believe me, it they can help us, they will play this year," Brooks said. "If they are not ready, then we will redshirt them."

Abren practicing: Brooks said redshirt freshman defensive lineman Ricky Abren will be allowed to practice, but not play, while dealing with charges against him including possession of stolen property and marijuana.

"He's still suspended from any participation in games until his court case is resolved to my satisfaction," Brooks said. "Until then, he will continue to practice."

Brooks also said cornerback Bo Smith, injured in a fight last month, will be redshirted this season but will be able to attend classes when school starts later this month.

No Jared: Brooks also said he was "surprised" by the way former UK quarterback Jared Lorenzen's professional career ended. Lorenzen said he was cut by the New York Giants. The team said he failed to report for training camp.

"I have yet to talk to Jared since he left or they cut him," said Brooks, the former head coach of the St. Louis Rams. "I was very surprised. Jared was looking forward to making a NFL team. In my personal opinion, he has really good ability to play in that league."

Cook helping: Senior receiver Tommy Cook likely will miss the season because of a knee injury suffered in UK's spring game. He also had an infection over the summer that resulted in a second surgery.

"He's one of the best leaders, one of the most respected players on our team because of what he's done during his career and the offseason," Brooks said. "He's the consummate player."

That's why Brooks has him among the 105 players Kentucky was allowed to bring to training camp. Even though he can't play, Cook will be on the field helping younger players learn the offense.

"He's still going to be a big asset to us," the coach said.

More retention: Defensive coordinator Mike Archer liked what he saw from his players during UK's first workout Tuesday.

"Last year when we started, it was a zoo. It was a fiasco," Archer said. "We really weren't sure what we were supposed to be doing. We couldn't even get lined up.

"Today the retention was much better from everybody who was here in the spring. I was really pleased with the retention of all the calls and how well our guys communicated with each other. You could also see that the young guys who were here in the summer had been coached by our veteran players. That means we can put in things a little quicker than we did last year."

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