Winners of just six games total in his first two seasons, the Wildcats must replace some lost talent on both sides of the ball this season, particularly on defense. Brooks said that he's counting on some new faces to give Kentucky a lift and a new beginning on the football field after just one player (Muhammad Abdullah) was named to the All-SEC team by the media.
"I really think by the end of this year you're going to know some new names at Kentucky that will be considered for this type of preseason poll a year from now," Brooks said. "I think we've got a lot of young players that are exciting with talent and speed. Guys like Keenan Burton, Rafael Little, Andre Woodson, Jacob Tamme, these are names many of you don't know and haven't heard. Tony Dixon, Wesley Woodyard, Johnny Williams, Joe Schuler, these guys are basically all sophomores and many of them played as true freshmen last year.
"I think we're a team that is a better football team going into this season than the two teams that preceded it," he added. "We're still a thin team depth-wise. We're a team that, unfortunately, is still down in numbers because of the probation. We'll have about 76 players on scholarship and that includes four players that I'm adding that were walk-ons and played significant roles for us last year."
The one player that could make a big difference for the Wildcats this season is Woodson. A 6-5, 230 sophomore that has a big arm and the ability to move out of the pocket, Brooks said that he's anxious to see the improvement in his game as a second-year player. Last year in limited action he completed 54-88 passes for 492 yards with two touchdowns and just one interception.
"I think it (Kentucky's offense) is centered around Andre Woodson right now," Brooks said. "Andre had a great spring. He started the game on the road against Auburn and played the whole game a year ago. He had a few brilliant moments as well as some freshman moments during that game. The bottom line is Andre Woodson had as a productive spring at quarterback as anyone I have coached in a lot of years. He can throw the ball extremely accurately. He's a very good passer and is tough in the pocket. He's a guy that has the ability to be a rising star in this league at that position."
On the defensive side of the ball the Wildcats return six starters led by the talented Abdullah in the secondary. Brooks said that he's hopeful a change in defensive systems back to a 4-3 will allow the defense to be better against the run after allowing 225 yards per game on the ground in 2004 and 26 touchdowns.
"We've been a team that has not been able to stop our opponents' running game in past years," Brooks said. "Last year was just dismal that way with people just running the ball at will against us. We feel the 4-3 will be a better defense for us to be stronger against opponents' running games. We've had some off-season attrition at linebacker, Preston Williams, Jon Sumrall and Chad Anderson. I think what that has done is open the door for some faster, impressive young linebackers that need to grow up real fast. They need to play like veterans and they're not, but they're going to get the opportunity to show it. I think as the season goes along this linebacker corps will get better and better each week. I'm impressed by the players we have there, they just need to grow up fast."