College Football Preview: Boyd goes into season knowing he's the No. 1 quarterback

August 17, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Rather than feel sorry for himself when things were not going as well as he hoped, Shane Boyd understood hard times were part of his maturation process.

"Getting discouraged is the story for every athlete that wants to play," said Boyd. "When you want to bring something to the team and you are not getting the opportunity you want, it can be discouraging. Every player wants to play and help a team win. That's something instilled in everyone, not just me, and when things don't go your way, you just have to fight through it."

Boyd has done that and now he goes into the season knowing this is finally his University of Kentucky football team. He's played in 26 games, starting six, and completed 111 of 216 passes for 1,156 yards and rushed for 548 yards. But he's never been considered the No. 1 quarterback.

No longer does he have to worry about competing with Jared Lorenzen for a starting spot, or playing time. No longer does he have to worry about playing multiple positions like he did last year. No longer does he have to adjust to another new system.


"Actually, I have felt it was my team since I walked on campus," Boyd said. "Even when nobody else may have felt that way, I did. Being a quarterback, you have to feel like that. That is why there is a lot of excitement going into this season. I know if I can do something special, that same feeling is going to be instilled in other players.

"I won't say I've been antsy for this season. My entire career has been a humbling experience, but it has all been for a purpose. Now I'm ready for the challenge."

The challenge is replacing Lorenzen, something Boyd did briefly during the 2001 season, and becoming an effective starting quarterback in the SEC. At times, he's been brilliant. At times, he's been erratic.

While he may not be as gifted a passer as Lorenzen, his arm is just as strong and he's much more mobile. Already second-year UK coach Rich Brooks is talking about the versatility Boyd will bring to the offense and things the Wildcats can do this year that they couldn't with Lorenzen last year because he lacked Boyd's running ability.

"I think Shane always thought he was a good player," Brooks said. "We are going to take advantage of his abilities. You won't see our quarterback staying in the pocket as much this year. You will see us throwing on the move, both right and left. Shane is athletic enough to bring down a defense with his movement. He also has as strong an arm as Jared. He just has to prove he's going to be as accurate throwing the ball to our guys, not their guys.

"He's worked very hard at that this summer. Athletically, intelligence-wise, knowing the offense, getting us into the right plays, none of that will be a problem with Shane. He knows exactly what's going on with the offense."

Teammates think last year could work to his advantage

Teammates think playing running back, receiver and quarterback last year could work to Boyd's advantage this season.

"He knows what receivers will do. He knows what running backs will do. He's like a coach now," defensive end Vincent Burns said. "You can see that with the way he leads the team. You are going to see a different Shane Boyd this year. He's in complete control of the team now."

Former UK player Dennis Johnson, now a defensive end with the Arizona Cardinals, still talks to Boyd several times per week. Like Burns, he's expecting to see a different Boyd this year.

"He's had some hard times, but he's survived and kept his head up," Johnson said. "Now it is his time to shine. He has great athletic ability, even better than a lot of people realize. I really think he could lead UK to a surprising season."

Kentucky assistant coach Joker Phillips has reminded Boyd often that Tennessee did not win a national title until Tee Martin, who had been Peyton Manning's backup, got the chance to start after Manning graduated.

"Jared was good, but we will be fine," Phillips said. "Shane is going to create problems for defenses and give us a dimension with his running that we didn't have last year."

Brooks said in one of his first conversations with Boyd after taking over at UK two years ago was to urge him not to be content as Lorenzen's backup.

"He's battled and worked to become our starter," Brooks said. "Now it is his time in the saddle. He needs to ride that horse and do a good job with it."

Boyd, who has never patterned his game after any particular quarterback, says being in offensive coordinator Ron Hudson's system for a second straight year has helped him. He's more comfortable reading defenses, especially after playing multiple spots last year.

"For the past four years, it seemed like I was always having to learn something new," Boyd said. "Now I know the coaches and their tendencies. They know me. I learned to appreciate the overall offense a lot more last year when I was moving around. It gave me a different perspective on defenses and made me realize how the quarterback has to know how a lot of different things unfold every play."

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