Vaught's Views: Woodyard plans to stay at UK

November 02, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Moments before Kentucky coach Rich Brooks spent 20 minutes defending his coaching staff despite UK's 1-7 record, freshman linebacker Wesley Woodyard got to address rumors about his own future.

In a season with few bright spots for the Wildcats, one positive has been the play of Woodyard. The former Georgia high school standout came to UK expecting to play a backup role at safety this season. Instead, his aggressive play was so impressive that not only was he moved to inside linebacker despite his lack of size, but he's earned a starting spot.

Still, the rumors have been swirling that Woodyard, and other freshmen, are not happy with the direction of the program and are contemplating transferring after the season ends.

If that were true, it would be even more devastating to UK's program than the October home loss to lowly Ohio University. The one thing Brooks and his staff have done well in their two years at Kentucky is recruit an above average class for the Wildcats last year. To lose Woodyard or any other members of that class would be harder for Brooks to explain than offensive coordinator Ron Hudson's play selection.


So what about it? Is Woodyard happy at Kentucky and planning to stay?

"That's just pure rumors that I am thinking about leaving," Woodyard said Monday. "All the freshmen are excited. We all knew Kentucky might have a hard time winning when we came here this year. That's why we came here. We want to help turn the program around."

Trying to recruit his teammates

There's no reason to doubt his word. Not only has he played hard in games, but he's been a leader at practice. Even more importantly, he's gone out of his way to try and recruit his former LaGrange High School teammates to play for Kentucky. One, receiver-defensive back Demoreo Ford, has already verbally committed. A second teammate, defensive end Braxton Kelley, could do the same soon.

But Woodyard says he's not ready to worry about next year quite yet. The Cats have three games left starting with Saturday's home game against No. 8 Georgia. Woodyard guesses he knows about 75 percent of the players at Georgia even though the Bulldogs did not recruit him.

"I am not going to even think about next year when we still have three games to play," Woodyard said. "We are not looking to the future yet. There is time for that after the season ends.

"A win this week could really help recruiting. It could turn a couple of cheeks our way. If we lose but still play well and hard, it could even help. But if we lose and play terrible, it could hurt our recruiting. We can't let that happen."

That certainly doesn't sound like a player thinking about leaving. Instead, it sounds like a player accustomed to winning who wants to find a way to make Kentucky win.

No one fooled Woodyard when he came to the Bluegrass. He understood the reason he could play early was because of UK's lack of talented depth and that this could be a challenging season. But he came to Kentucky and says he's not ready to leave.

"I came here because I eventually believed we would have a chance to win the SEC," Woodyard said. "I still believe that. I'm not planning to leave. I'm here to build a winner, not quit when we lose a few games. I knew what I was getting into. I love it here. I just want to find a way for us to win more."

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