McCutchan keeps his starting job

September 03, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Coming out of spring practice, Matt McCutchan was No. 1 on Kentucky's depth chart at center.

Still, he knew going into preseason practice that many still considered him the weakest link in UK's offensive line because of his inexperience and that he would have to prove again he deserved a starting berth.

"You have to prove yourself every day," said McCutchan. "I think the coaches believed in me, and I still do. I think they thought coming out of spring practice that I could do the job.

"But coming into the SEC (Southeastern Conference) from never playing a game in college is a huge step obviously. I know that. But I am confident in myself and my teammates going into this first game."


A year ago when UK opened the season against Louisville, McCutchan was an unknown walk-on transfer from Navy. He had never played a game at Navy and left because he wanted to continue playing football, something he was not going to be allowed to do at Navy because officials there feared another knee injury could jeopardize his chances to fulfill his military requirements.

He impressed teammates with his play in practice last year and he'll be snapping the ball to quarterback Shane Boyd Sunday in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium when the Cats face Louisville in their opening game.

"Matt is a good guy. He's fun to play with because he is a tough guy. He can play in pain and will push through the pain. He's willing to give you all he has, and that makes me glad to be playing with him," Kentucky senior guard Jason Rollins said.

Injuries haven't stopped him

McCutchan is not as tall (6-3) or as big (280 pounds) as most SEC offensive linemen. However, he's compensated not only with his field awareness, but also with his toughness. He played in the spring intrasquad game despite injuring his hand a day earlier. Several times in preseason practice he's been bothered by ankle injuries, but he wouldn't stay out of the lineup.

"Matt has played through some bad wheels (ankles) in practice," said Kentucky freshman defensive lineman Jason Leger. "But he keeps playing. He'll hold his own in there. From what I've seen of him, he knows what he is doing. I know he has not played in a college game yet, but I think he will be fine."

McCutchan thinks Louisville's defensive line, which includes former Boyle County standout Bobby Leffew, will present problems for the Wildcats.

"They have some big guys and great athletes on their team," McCutchan said. "They are not going to give us much. We are going to have to use our quickness against their size and make sure we execute the offense the way we should."

McCutchan is "excited" to be making his first start in a nationally televised game.

"I played in a state championship game (in Ohio)," McCutchan said. "It's not the same level, but we had a lot of pressure on us, too, as high school players. We had 15,000 people there, which seemed like about 100,000 to me then. I know it will be different with millions of people watching, including all the people back home, but I'm hoping once the game starts, the nerves go away."

McCutchan is confident Kentucky's offense can be productive enough for the Wildcats to be successful Sunday.

"I think we have some great athletes on perimeter and Shane Boyd is proving he can get the ball to those guys as well as do a lot of things himself with the ball," McCutchan said. "Our line might be young and inexperienced, but we are coming together. I feel good about our offense, or at least better than a lot of other people do."

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