New Kid On The Block

New Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks talks about life back in football and his thoughts on playing two quarterbacks.

Hoover, Ala.--Rich Brooks is a veteran of media interviews after 40 years in the coaching profession, including stops in both the NFL and college football as head coach, but he was still like a kid in a candy store Tuesday when he met the SEC media for the first time as the coach of the Kentucky Wildcats. A vibrant and confident speaker, it's easy to see why Brooks was chosen to replace departed Guy Morriss.

As a head coach Brooks put life into an Oregon program that was woeful before his arrival in 1977. Before he left for greener pastures in the NFL following the 1994 season he had won more games than any coach in school history and led the Ducks to four bowl games during the time. Oregon's berth in the Independence Bowl in 1989 was the first bowl bid and eight-win season in 26 years for the school.

Now Brooks once again takes over a reclamation project, this time deep in SEC country. Kentucky has a long history of athletic success in the South, but much of which comes on the basketball court. Brooks says that can be a great recruiting tool for his staff as they try to build on the success of last season's 7-5 Wildcat squad.

Rich Brooks

"I look at this at a great opportunity," Brooks said. "Kentucky football should be more consistently competitive in this league than it has been in recent years. One of the things I feel badly about is that I'm their (this year's senior class) third head coach. This senior class has seen three head coaches and sometimes four position coaches. I don't think that's what they went to Kentucky for. It's been a very difficult transition for the players to go through. The good news is that I think I have a very good nucleus of players returning.

"The problem I see is that we don't have enough quality players," Brooks added. "We don't have the overall team speed that a lot of the teams in this league have. That's something we have to recruit to and improve and I believe we will."

A strong defensive coach, Brooks will likely have to depend on his offense in 2003 to outscore opponents with just two seniors expected to see playing time on defense this season. Luckily for him Jared Lorenzen returns as one of the top quarterbacks in the league this season. Coming off an amazing season last year, he will be the starter for the Wildcats and Brooks says he can be as good as he wants to be.

"I told Jared when I first met with him in January that I wasn't going to make weight an issue in the media, I was going to make his conditioning an issue between he and I," Brooks said. "My goal is to have him in as good of shape in the fourth quarter as he is in the first quarter. He even admitted that he tired a year ago. My goal is to have him in good cardiovascular shape and he will be.

"I believe that Jared Lorenzen is a big-time quarterback that can play on Sundays in the NFL," Brooks added. "He has the ability to throw the ball better than most any quarterback I have been around. He can throw it vertically and has the touch pass. He threw 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions a year ago in this league. That's phenomenal in my opinion. He threw one interception in spring practice. That's drills, scrimmages and 7-on-7. The guy isn't going to give the ball away."

While Lorenzen had a special season, back-up Shane Boyd also played some and Brooks got a long look at the speedy junior running the ball and throwing on the run. Impressing him enough to be expected to split time with Lorenzen this fall, Boyd's ability has Brooks dreaming up new ways to get him in the game.

"My philosophy changed when I put on films of last year and witnessed Shane Boyd's work in the spring," Brooks said. "Not only are we going to play two quarterbacks, in fact I'm going to play them at the same time. They'll be in the backfield together, sometimes both in the shotgun to make the defense guess which one is going to get the snap."

In addition, Brooks says Boyd could line up at tailback, fullback, wide receiver and even some as a H-Back. Lorenzen could also get some time at fullback and may line up wide at receiver on selected occasions. No matter what happens, Kentucky fans can expect an exciting brand of football this season at Commonwealth Stadium

Although they should be able to score points with the duo of quarterbacks returning along with star Derek Abney at receiver and returning kicks, the loss of dominating defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson leaves a big hole up front for the Wildcats. With veteran defensive coordinator Mike Archer returning for his second stint in Lexington, Brooks said he's expecting a unit that gets better from the first game to the last.

"We have only 10 seniors on the team, two of them on offense and eight on defense," Brooks said. "I think we have more experienced and talented players on the offensive side of the ball than we do defense. We have some younger players on defense that I think will become good players, but the experience isn't there. Jeremy Caudill and Leonard Burress are our only two seniors on the defensive side of the ball. I don't think we'll be ready right out of the shoot on defense, I think there will be a few growing pains. Overall, I think we'll be a solid defensive football team."

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