Woodyard just wants to win

October 08, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - As a youngster growing up in Georgia, Wesley Woodyard loved to play football.

He gave up baseball because he "couldn't tackle anyone during a game" and his passion for football helped him develop into a standout player for LaGrange High School, one of Georgia's top prep programs.

Saturday he'll be trying to help the Wildcats win their first Southeastern Conference game of the year when Alabama visits Commonwealth Stadium. For Woodyard, a true freshman safety, he says it is the type of game that brought him to Kentucky.

"Growing up in the south, you have teams like Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and others that are the big caliber teams. I would love to win this game so I could tell my kids one day that I beat Alabama, too," Woodyard said.


Kentucky (1-3) is coming off a disappointing 28-16 home loss to Ohio University. Alabama has struggled offensively its last two games since losing starting quarterback Brodie Croyle to a knee injury, but the Crimson Tide will test UK's porous run defense with one of the SEC's best rushing offenses.

"They are a heck of a running team," Woodyard said. "We have to stop the run better. We just have not been playing like we should against the run."

Linebacker may be his position

That's one reason defensive coordinator Mike Archer has used Woodyard some at linebacker and may eventually move him there all the time to take advantage of his speed, hitting ability and athleticism.

Secondary coach Steve Brown, a former NFL player, realizes Woodyard's future could be at linebacker.

"He just grabs any opportunity he gets. He moves around and sometimes it is like he's going to kill or get killed," Brown said. "I would hate to lose him, but down the road he's going to be about 225 (pounds) and will look like a lot of the SEC linebackers that we play against. He could give us a lot of potential at linebacker with his speed and aggressiveness. That's a dimension that can help any defense."

All Woodyard is worried about is winning no matter where he plays.

"We need this one, just like we need all the other wins," Woodyard said. "We need to get our first SEC win. Last week was a tough loss. Any loss inside your home stadium is a devastating loss to me. It doesn't matter who it is. Any home loss hurts real bad.

"I am one of those type guys that every time we go on the field, I know we have a chance to win. I just go out and play hard to win and it's painful when we do not win. Every time out, you should give 100 percent. We just have to play a lot better."

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks has cited UK's lack of leadership as a problem for this year's team.

"Everyone needs to take a part in stepping up and saying something," Woodyard said. "It doesn't matter whether you are first team, second team or scout team. We just have to rise to the challenge. Everybody on the team is down, but we can't stay that way."

Woodyard was one of only three UK players to attend Brooks' weekly press conference earlier this week to talk about the Ohio loss.

"I was actually kind of excited to come over and talk to the media," Woodyard said. "You have to let them know how things are going. Actually, words can somehow ease the pain and get the questions out of your system, too."

High school teammates still interested in Cats

Woodyard was somewhat surprised that three of his former high school teammates now being recruited by Kentucky were not more critical of the Cats after last week's loss.

"They called me Sunday morning and said they heard about the game," Woodyard said. "That's showing interest that they want to come here and get in the action. I told them I want them here as soon as possible. They most definitely are still interested in Kentucky. They still have to take their visits, but hopefully they will pick Kentucky because this is a wonderful place to be and I'm also sure they could get right in the action."

Woodyard, one of nine true freshmen Kentucky has used this year, insists the Cats understand they have to play better if they want to win.

"It's not coach Brooks' fault. It's our fault. We have to play harder. The coaches did their best job last week, but we didn't listen the way we should have," Woodyard said. "There's no need to point fingers. As soon as you do that, it separates the team and there's no way to have team unity then.

"Football is a team sport. It's not track. It's not tennis. It's a team game. It is not one person's fault if you lose, or win. It's not the coach's fault. It is the whole team's fault and it's up to us to make it better."

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