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Vaught's Views: UK's jucos providing little help

September 14, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

While he says it is still too early to judge the overall impact junior college signees have had, or could have, at Kentucky, coach Rich Brooks also knows the seven players he's brought in the last two years have not had nearly the immediate impact he had hoped.

Brooks knew coaching changes and NCAA sanctions had hurt Kentucky's recruiting and depth when he took over two years ago. To balance the numbers at some positions and also find mature, experienced players who might help more than a true freshman, Brooks and his staff hit the junior college ranks.

The first year they brought running back Draak Davis and tight end Kurt Jackson to Kentucky. A back injury kept Jackson from playing last year and has him as a seldom-used reserve now. Davis got to play plenty last year, but was largely ineffective because whatever speed he had was more than negated by his lack of size. In UK's season-opening loss to Louisville this season, he had one run for three yards.

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Rather than be discouraged by last year's lack of junior college help, Brooks and his staff looked even harder this year because they knew this was the season NCAA sanctions could impact the Cats even more than the past two seasons.

Still, the results have not been encouraging. Cedric Koger was to be converted from a defensive end to linebacker, but he's been slow to learn the system. Tight end Jamir Davis hurt his knee in the summer, lost 15-to-20 pounds and has not worked his way into the regular playing rotation.

Offensive lineman Ernie Pelayo was needed to bring size and experience to the spot where the Cats have the least depth. An injury kept him out of spring practice, but he looked ready to challenge for a starting spot before he dislocated his shoulder again against Louisville. Now he's going to try and play in pain with a shoulder harness the rest of the season in hopes of delaying surgery until after the year ends.

Mitchell, Parsons could play more

The two junior college players who could help the most this year are receiver Scott Mitchell and defensive lineman B. Jay Parsons. Mitchell had a 33-yard catch against Louisville and Brooks said Monday he'll play more against Indiana this week than he did against the Cardinals.

Parsons is playing behind Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns, Ellery Moore and Trey Mielsch but he had two tackles, including a quarterback sack, against the Cardinals and should provide the depth Kentucky expected when he was recruited.

So was Brooks wrong to try this route? Absolutely not. He knew UK needed help this year, not in 2005 or 2006, to be competitive. Looking for gold in the junior college ranks was a reasonable risk.

Obviously, redshirting every freshman to let him mature would be a plus. However, not even the top powers do that any more because some freshmen are just too talented not to play and some positions, even at the top 10 teams, need depth.

"If you recruit well, some freshmen will play. If you are a situation like us, more freshmen will play," Brooks said. "Some freshmen are capable of being impact players. Some are capable of playing and developing into impact players before the year ends. Plus, they become much better the second year than if they had redshirted."

Which should mean UK's experiment with significant junior college signees is over and Brooks and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips will basically stick with high school signees now that probation is over and UK again is allowed its full allotment of scholarships.



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