FAYETTEVILLE — Most college football coaches don't try to talk their star players into leaving early for the NFL Draft. But there's always been something a little bit different about Kentucky coach Rich Brooks.
When Wildcats cornerback Trevard Lindley was considering whether to return for his senior season or jump at the chance to be a possible second-round pick, he sought advice from Brooks.
The coach's message was simple.
"I really advised Trevard I'd love to have him back, but I thought he should probably go because he was evaluated by the NFL committee of being a mid-second round pick," Brooks said earlier this month at the Southeastern Conference Media Days.
"But he decided with his family, and I was pleasantly surprised by the way obviously that he decided to return."
Lindley admitted that it was a bit odd that Brooks was encouraging him to leave, but after ignoring his coach's advice, the senior returns this fall as arguably the SEC's top cornerback.
"I think I'm one of the top corners in the nation," Lindley said. "And it's good to just go out there and play."
Lindley has proven himself as a top shutdown cornerback, using his combination of speed and anticipation to blanket some of the SEC's best wide receivers. He's also helped the Wildcats reel off three consecutive bowl victories for the first time in school history.
Despite being bothered by a shoulder injury that limited what he could show NFL scouts, Lindley was named an All-American last season after recording 39 tackles, 11 pass breakups and four interceptions.
He said he chose to return to Kentucky for one more season because he wanted to improve his draft status. His decision to stay wasn't swayed by Brooks telling him to leave.
"I guess it was pretty weird at the time," Lindley said of Brooks' advice. "But I mean, (my decision was) just to come back for my senior season and try to up my (draft) stock for next year."
Lindley's shoulder injury appears to have healed, and Brooks said his star cornerback has bulked up over the summer and become stronger. That's not good news for SEC receivers, though.
Said Brooks: "Trevard Lindley, simply put, can line up against any receiver in the country one-on-one."
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Sophomore Randall Cobb is a versatile player who has shown that he can play many different roles for the Wildcats. He started at quarterback and wide receiver as a freshman last season, and as if that weren't enough, he also returned punts. He's expected to line up at receiver this season, though he could see time under center in Kentucky's Wildcat formation.
RISING STAR: Junior-college transfer Chris Matthews has the potential to make an immediate impact in Lexington. At 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, he has the size and leaping ability to be Kentucky's deep threat. The Wildcats' passing game could use the help.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: The Wildcats have obvious questions at quarterback and along the defensive line, but at least they know what it takes to overcome low expectations and win. Kentucky is going for its fourth consecutive bowl victory, which would extend the school's best postseason run.
BIGGEST QUESTION: Quarterback Mike Hartline was named Kentucky's most outstanding offensive player of the Liberty Bowl, but he was inconsistent in his first season as the starter. Wildcats coach Rich Brooks believes Hartline will show progress now that he has gained some experience, but that remains to be seen.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Even though Louisville has fallen off since Bobby Petrino left, Kentucky's instate rivalry with Louisville is still strong. And considering the Wildcats have a brutal three-game stretch against Florida, Alabama and South Carolina early on, they should savor their Sept. 19 home game against Louisville.
FORECAST: Sixth in the SEC East.
Lindley Ignores Coach's Advice
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