Brooks sees future building blocks for Cats

October 25, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - The losses continue to mount for Kentucky, but coach Rich Brooks says he's seeing future building blocks for UK's struggling offense.

Redshirt freshman Andre Woodson got his first start at quarterback in Saturday's 42-10 loss at Auburn. He lost two fumbles and was sacked seven times, but he was 14-for-25 passing for 73 yards with no interceptions.

True freshman running back Rafael Little ran 14 times for 48 yards, including a 4-yard scoring run against an Auburn defense that had not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.

However, Kentucky had just 110 total yards, its lowest output since Tim Couch made his first start at Florida in 1996.


"I think Andre has the ability to be a good quarterback at this level, but we need to help him," said Brooks Sunday. "We need to recruit the right players to surround the quarterback position that can play at the top SEC level as well. Right now we have a mixture of those players.

"You cannot make single judgments on one game. You cannot make a judgment on his ability to set the world on fire when all the pieces are not in place around him right now."

Brooks' said Woodson's major flaws Saturday were his lack of pocket awareness and ball security. However, the coach also acknowledged that illegal procedure penalties, poor pass protections and other missed assignments didn't help Woodson.

"He did not get rattled. He handled himself reasonably well without getting the type of help you would like to get from your running game, pass protection and catching the ball," Brooks said. "The good thing to me was that he did not panic. He missed a few things, but veteran quarterbacks miss a few things."

Brooks said his staff would continue to work with Woodson's ball security in practice this week in case normal starter Shane Boyd's sore left shoulder prevents him from starting Saturday at Mississippi State.

"We have worked on it a great deal, but often in games he reverts back to old habits," Brooks said. "He still does not keep two hands on the ball and hold it up high consistently. On the other side, I would like to be able not to turn people loose on him as quickly as they were turned loose on him (at Auburn)."

Little got his most extensive action of the season because of an ankle injury that limited Tony Dixon, another true freshman, to just one carry.

Little's play even more impressive

Brooks said Little's play was even more impressive considering he missed all of preseason practice because of offseason knee surgery.

"He can break tackles. He has good vision," Brooks said.

Brooks feels Little and Dixon are two of the right pieces to put in UK's future backfield. He also likes what he sees in true freshmen offensive linemen Aaron Miller and Micah Jones.

"We have to get our offensive line going, but Miller and Jones are guys who can absolutely play in this league and already are playing well," the Kentucky coach said.

The Cats have used nine true freshmen, including receivers Lonnell Dewalt and Dicky Lyons, this season. Brooks said with the arrival of five grayshirted freshmen in January who will be able to go through spring drills, he could see UK using as many newcomers next season, too.

"I could conceivably see eight or nine playing plus the redshirt freshmen this year that we are not playing right now," Brooks said.

Brooks said new players have a chance to succeed more if they are surrounded by experienced players, a luxury UK does not have this season.

"In Andre's situation, he isn't experienced obviously. You have to narrow the game plan and try to simplify it a little bit," Brooks said. "We didn't put a lot of option in the game plan other than one or two simple things. But that also made it easier for the defense to zero in and cut loose on the pass rush."

Notes: Brooks said it would be today before he would knee if Dixon and defensive end Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns would be able to play at Mississippi State. Burns hurt his ankle in the first half at Auburn. ... Brooks said he would know more about Boyd's status for this week after watching practice. ... Kicker Taylor Begley extended his school record extra point streak to 68 with a conversion at Auburn.

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