Despite an offer from nearby Louisville, it wasn't Kentucky and that was enough to convince Wilson to hit the road. Taking his game a long way from home without a scholarship, it didn't take long to see that Wilson had the ability to be an early contributor for Coach Houston Nutt. Following a redshirt season, he caught just five passes as a freshman. That changed dramatically the next season when he caught 40 passes for 568 yards and three touchdowns. He followed that up with a 49-catch year as a junior with 626 yards and seven touchdowns, all of which led the Razorbacks.
Now preparing for his senior season, Wilson sees a lot of things to be excited about when he looks at his team. With 19 starters back, including nine on offense, the Hogs should be one of the favorites to challenge Auburn and LSU for the SEC Western Division title. But that hasn't been the case in the preseason with magazine after magazine putting them third or worse in the division. Wilson said that is something this team feeds on as they get ready to defend their title.
"We're not going to take a backseat to anybody," Wilson said. "Just because they are picked to win, we're not going to roll our helmets on the field and lie down. They have to put their pads on like we put our pads on. Really that just puts a little more pressure on them because they are expected to win. We're not expected to win most of the time. That's what drives us. That's what motivates us. To go out and prove people wrong when they doubt us."
"We have great leadership on this team this year," Wilson added. "I just think everybody is going to be a team player. We're not going to have to worry about anybody complaining about getting snaps or things like that because we're a team. We have that bitter taste in our mouths from the last two games of last year. We're hungry and we know that we have to stick together through thick and thin to get back to where we want to be."
While Arkansas is loaded on both sides of the ball, the Kentucky Wildcats must replace several key players on an already thin defense while learning a new system under Head Coach Rich Brooks and defensive coordinator Mike Archer. Archer, a former Head Coach at LSU and the defensive coordinator at Kentucky under Bill Curry, returns from the NFL. A respected defensive mind, Archer's return should give the Wildcats a boost and Brooks said he thinks that will be the case.
"I feel that I'm a much better football coach now than I was when I left Oregon in 1994," Brooks said. "Mike Archer is a much better football coach since he left football after seven years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's seen everything. He's seen the spread and all the option stuff in college. I really believe that Mike is going to put together a really solid defensive unit for us. More importantly, I think his ability to make adjustments during the game has been greatly enhanced by his time in the NFL."
Vanderbilt was the last team on the docket in Tuesday's opening day of Media Days in Hoover and one of the players present was sophomore defensive end Jovan Haye. A player Auburn recruiting fans will remember, Haye hails from Dillard High in Ft. Lauderdale and has become one of the top up-and-coming defenders in the SEC. Coach Bobby Johnson said that Haye has improved immensely since arriving on the campus three years ago and will be a key defender for a team looking for improvement on the defensive front.
"I think it's truly remarkable," Johnson said of Haye's improvement. "He didn't play very long in high school and was redshirted his first year at Vanderbilt. Last year he played as a redshirt freshman. What you see is a very talented athlete and raw football player. That's what he was last year and he was just sort of running around and didn't have a purpose. He got better as the year went along and made tremendous progress during the spring."
Quote of the Day:
Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks answered jokingly when asked if he had established a new policy on when Gatorade could be dumped on him, referring back to last season's heartbreaking loss to LSU.
"When the clock runs out and you're ahead," Brooks said. "That's a real light note in Kentucky I'll tell you that. You must have a sick sense of humor."