Hopewell hoped for more

November 04, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Andrew Hopewell hoped this could be the year he would emerge as more than a special teams specialist for Kentucky.

Instead, it has been a season without many highlights for the former Danville all-state player.

"Team-wise, things could be a lot better," Hopewell said as the Wildcats prepare to host Georgia Saturday. "There is tons of room for improvement."

He still believes he had a chance to make a "season-changing" play against Alabama when he came through the line untouched so quickly that he could have tackled the punter. Instead, he left his feet to block the kick and the punter ran for a first down when no other Cats stayed in their containment areas. Alabama went on to win the game, and UK is now 1-7 going into the game with No. 8 Georgia.

"It crossed my mind to tackle the guy, but if I tackled him and he kicked it, it would have been a roughing penalty we didn't need," Hopewell said. "Maybe I should have just stood in front of him until he kicked it."


He thought he might get a chance to play running back this year.

"I felt I was doing well in training camp, and then I hurt my ankle for about two weeks," said Hopewell, a walk-on junior. "For a guy like me trying to work my way up, that just can't happen. I felt like my stock really dropped when I was hurt.

"Then Rafael Little came back from his surgery at the same time and Tony Dixon moved over to offense. They wanted to give those freshman a shot at running back, and I can't blame them for that. They are good backs and the coaches are preparing for the future. It was just an unfortunate break for me."

He says he doesn't anticipate any changes at running back the next three games.

"I was competing for second string and getting the chance I needed, and then I got hurt. There's nothing I could do about it," Hopewell said.

He has been in on only three tackles and went the first half of the season without a tackle on the kickoff team. First, UK's offense has scored so few points that there have not been many kickoffs. Second, when UK has kicked off, Clint Ruth consistently has put the ball in the end zone.

"I have also been double-teamed on kickoffs a lot, but that just means somebody else has a chance to make a play," Hopewell said. "Covering kicks is my forte. I love that more than anything. I would love if we could score more. That really helps everyone's morale. I wish I had been on kickoff team a lot, lot more this year."

Against South Carolina, he was in only only seven special teams plays. Normally, he'll get 15 to 20.

"It's actually hard to stay loose when we don't score. Nobody wants to stretch out for three hours," said Hopewell, who blocked a punt for a touchdown last year against Arkansas. "But you just have to make the best of it. There's nothing I can really change. No player really can. I don't feel like I really have the opportunity to change the outcome of a game and I don't feel like I can do a lot better than I have given the situation I am in."

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