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Leger may play for Wildcats earlier than he had planned

August 29, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - If all goes as planned, Jason Leger will find out today whether he figures into Kentucky's plans this year or not.

The freshman defensive lineman from Rockcastle County originally was not even slated to enroll at Kentucky until January. However, when a spot opened for him to join the team in August, he came and has impressed UK's defensive coaches with his play.

"When I came here my goal was to play," Leger said last week. "The coaches told me I would probably know Sunday if I was going to redshirt or not. I am the type of guy that wants to get on the field and get the job done.

"I know I probably am not going to start this year. I have a lot of stuff to learn. It's a lot different than high school ball. But I came here to play and that's what I am working to do."

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Because of injuries to others in UK's defensive front, Leger could go into the season-opening game at Louisville Sept. 5 second on the depth chart at nose guard behind Lamar Mills.

"Ask any offensive lineman what I am going to do and they will tell you real quick it is bull rush," Leger said. "Sometimes I have to use some moves. (Assistant) coach (Michael) Gray is helping me use my hands and work on more moves off the bull rush, but my strength is just lining up and bull rushing straight ahead."

Strength is his strong suit

He had 176 tackles in high school where his strength (385-pound bench press and 625-pound squat) was his strong suit.

However, his height (6-1) worried a lot of Division I recruiters who thought he was too short to be effective.

"It is nice to show people I can play," Leger said. "A lot of people look only at size and nothing else. Lamar Mills is about the same size and to me, he is a great player. It takes somebody really good to block him. I am a pretty good player, too. I am not saying I am great. I have a long ways to go and a lot still to learn. But I think I am showing that how tall you are really doesn't matter that much."

Leger is philosophical about possibly being redshirted this year rather than playing as backup lineman.

"Either decision is fine with me," Leger said. "If I wait another year, it is just another year of experience I get out here and can work in the weight room. I'll have another year to get used to all the things and people around you. That's a big thing for building trust with a team.

"But if I do get to play, that's fine, too. I will play, do my best and hopefully have three more good years ahead of me."

Leger, Rockcastle's first Division I signee, has not been able to go home since preseason practice started. When he does call home, his parents "ask a lot of questions because everybody wants to know what I am doing."

However, he says he knows there is one person that could be more excited than anyone about his success.

"My defensive coordinator at Rockcastle, Tony Saylor, will be excited," Leger said. "He will be as happy as my dad was when I was born. There will be a lot of happy people back home if I get to play, but none will be more happy than him."

He has even forgiven Tamme

Leger has even learned to forgive teammate Jacob Tamme, a redshirt freshman receiver, for helping Boyle County beat Rockcastle County in the Class AAA state championship games in 2001 and 2002.

"Jacob is a great guy and a great player. I don't have a thing against him," Leger said. "It is hard to see him and think that he has my two state (championship) rings. But I think a lot of him. There certainly are no hard feelings. I really like him, and I think he'll be a big key to our offensive success. He's even better than I realized."

While Leger has no real dislike for Louisville, he quickly learned once he got to UK that the rivalry was bigger than he imagined.

"I have always been a UK fan since I was a little boy," he said. "It was always UK, UK, UK. I have not really been for Louisville and they were never a big threat (to UK) to me.

"But any organization you go into, there is always somebody you want to beat real bad. Coming here, you learn in the first two or three days that Louisville is the team you really want to beat."

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