Freshmen playmakers key to UK's success

September 20, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Since he knows his team will play at least nine true freshmen Saturday at Florida, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks sees it as a good news, bad news situation.

"I don't think we have much choice (but to play them)," said Brooks said. "We have to play the game. We are going there. We are going to play freshmen. They may make freshmen mistakes, but they are also capable of making big plays."

Brooks said his freshmen made mistakes in the 51-32 win over Indiana last Saturday, but they also made numerous big plays.

"They will do the same at Florida, too," Brooks said.

The freshmen played a vital role in the victory over Indiana.

* Tailback Tony Dixon had a 67-yard scoring run and 105 yards rushing overall on nine carries, an average of 11.7 yards per run. He also had three catches for 34 yards.


"Tony Dixon played an amazing game for a true freshman," Brooks said. "More impressive than his running was his blocking. He cut down guys on the perimeter. He got key blocks for Shane (Boyd) in the quarterback run game. He was extremely impressive."

Rafael Little played in his first game and ran four times for 33 yards, including one 17-yard run.

"We thought they were pretty good players and they obviously did some pretty good things," Brooks said. "Rafael still has got to lower his shoulder pads a little bit, but now we have some choices at running back."

* Offensive tackle Aaron Miller had an illegal procedure penalty and missed some assignments, but he also helped solidify the offensive line as did Micah Jones, who played numerous snaps in a reserve role.

"Aaron Miller got his first collegiate action and to do what he did is almost remarkable. He had some assignment errors and did some things wrong, but he did some very good things," Brooks said. "When Micah gets his assignments down, we have a couple of real good guys to build an offensive line with."

* Safeties Marcus McClinton and Wesley Woodyard made several big plays. McClinton had two tackles and forced a fumble that UK recovered and Woodyard had a quarterback hurry.

* Receiver Lonnell Dewalt had three catches for 33 yards, but did miss a touchdown catch in the end zone.

"He had some de-cleaters (blocks that knock opponents down)," Brooks said. "The first play, he dropped the linebacker and then helped Glenn Holt on his block."

* Receiver Dicky Lyons Jr. returned five punts for only eight yards, but his biggest return was nullified by a penalty.

"He also made some good blocks late in the game," Brooks said. "I love his guts."

Defensive lineman Jason Leger also played, and Brooks says it is still possible that cornerback Jarrell Williams could play this year. "Jarrell Williams is on the bubble," Brooks said. "We need to stay healthy at corner or he can play."

Brooks thought his freshmen class was talented, but even he has been impressed by what his newcomers have done so quickly.

"It's pretty obvious they played well (against Indiana)," Brooks said. "They made some mistakes, but it does not take a genius to look on the field and see in this freshmen class, including those being redshirted, that we have more difference-makers than maybe previous recruiting classes have had. It's easy to tell the difference-maker ability is on the upswing in Kentucky recruiting."

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