LEXINGTON — Kentucky likely is going to need help from true freshmen receivers and running backs this season. Two years ago, the Wildcats even turned to true freshman quarterback Morgan Newton when starter Mike Hartline was injured and lost for the season.
But will new defensive coordinator Rick Minter rely on any true freshmen to bolster his new, more aggressive UK defense that will rely on much more blitzing?
“It would be a challenge to be honest with you, but in the first year no matter who you are playing with, freshmen or seniors, it is a challenge,” said Minter. “Second, third (years) and on down the road gets easier. Marshall and Note Dame, my last two stops (in Division I), it took time before things started to flow and fall in place. My second year at Marshall we climbed into the top two or three defenses in Conference USA and played extremely well
“But we are not talking about the future. We are talking about now. What we have to make work now is that we have got experience. We have older guys who should be physically developed and mentally capable of learning new things. We have 10 seniors on defense and what I¿tried to sell them on is fast forward your life and if you have aspirations to play at the next level (NFL) you are going to be thrown a playbook that looks just about like ours and told to learn it in about four weeks.”
Minter says he is challenging his older players, who he knows have NFL¿aspirations, to use his playbook/style as a way to measure how they could do in a NFL training camp.
“Use that as a test. If you really want to play at the next level, use this as a test to the finish line of your four- or five-year college career. Don’t coast. Accelerate in your last year and put the hammer down and hopefully it makes us better, too, and will make you better,” Minter said.
“One year from now, guess what. ¿You are going to be asked to do that again. If you want to play at the next level, you are going to be asked to learn that again. That’s the silver lining for those guys that they have been tested and taught a bunch of new things and now their bank of knowledge is that much broader.
“If there are three or four teams they happened to get looked at, it could be guys that our system really is patterned after whether it be the Ravens, the Jets, the Steelers. A lot of their packages and concepts are in our playbook.”
That’s why it’s so hard for a freshman to adopt to his system.
“It could happen with a freshman, but it’s not easy on them,” Minter said. “I am going to play the best guys we have, but they also have to know what they are doing.”
Line backer: Receiver LaRod King knows how much easier it is for him to get open to catch passes because of the work guards Stuart Hines and Larry Warford do.
“I can run around all day while they are sitting their blocking for the quarterback,” King said. “As long as I can run around and get open, that’s more touchdowns for the whole team. Those guys are phenomenal leaders and the offensive line is probably the strength of this team now. Those guys have come a long way. I think our chemistry is together now because of them. (Quarterback) Morgan (Newton) is the leader on offense, but the offensive line is the strength of our team because of those two guys.¿I will vouch for that all day.”
Fan Day: Kentucky’s football Fan Day will be Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium and will once again include a two-hour open practice for fans.
Offensive, defensive and special teams drill start at 6 p.m. with official player introductions and an autograph session to follow the practice. Fireworks are slated for 9:30 p.m.
Gate will open at 5 p.m.