Detailing the D-Line:
Kentucky's defensive line looms as a strength in the Wildcats' 3-4 defensive scheme.
UK returns defensive end Sweet Pea Burns, an All-SEC performer last season; two more experienced, capable ends in Ellery Moore and Trey Mielsch; 2003 Freshman All-American Lamar Mills at nose tackle; a couple of exciting newcomers in junior college transfer B. Jay Parsons at end and redshirt freshman nose tackle Ricky Abren.
There are a pair of questions marks, however. Burns underwent arthroscopic knee surgery today to repair a small cartilage tear in his knee, but he hopes to return in time for the season opener. Abren is practicing with the team, but is suspended from game action until resolution of an off-campus incident.
Following practice on Wednesday, D-Line coach Michael Gray discussed the group.
"We have some competition going on," Gray said. "If you have some depth in some positions, usually the competitive juices flow a little better. The guys start competing for playing time and that is a coach's ally. I think everyone is working hard and competing.
"Vincent (Sweet Pea) Burns is still the guy at his position. Trey and Ellery have really been battling to see who is going to start (at the other end)," Gray continued. "Lamar has had a solid camp, but he's made a few mistakes and he has to keep improving. I'm still looking for a backup nose tackle. I'm looking at Ellery (who played the position last season). But I'm going to try to keep him at end, I like him there. I have to wait to see what happens to Ricky. If he's able to play in the first game, he'll be my backup and I'll keep Ellery at end."
Parsons, who is in his first season with the Wildcats after transferring from Saddleback College, has made a good impression in practice. The 6-5, 250-pounder has shown an instinct for making tackles for loss and swatting away pass attempts.
"B. Jay's got a big-time motor," Gray said. "He'll go make the play 20 yards down the field. He'll bat the balls down. He's also a great pass rusher."
Gray also is working with a couple of true freshmen, end Nii Adjei Oninku (pronounced "KNEE ad-JAY
o-NIN-coo") and tackle Jason Leger (pronounced "LEE-jer").
"Nii Adjei is really bright. He's very athletic and has a great first step. He has a great upside (potential). If he can get to 255 or 260 (pounds), where he should be, he's going to be a problem for other teams. It's going to be tough for guys to handle him. He's just as quick as Vincent right now. It's just a matter of him getting bigger and stronger and getting reps (practice repetitions)," Gray said. "Jason is big and strong right now. He was able to dominate in high school (because of his strength) and at this level he can't do that. So, his fundamentals and technique have to improve and he's been working hard on them. For a guy who just learned the scheme, he's holding his own."
Sweet Pea Surgery Goes Well:
Kentucky senior defensive end Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns underwent arthroscopic surgery on Thursday for a small cartilage tear in his knee.
The procedure was performed at UK Hospital by Dr. Darren Johnson, who said that the surgery went well. Burns hopes to return to practice the week of the Louisville game and play against the Cardinals in the season opener on Sept. 5.
Burns, who was named first-team All-Southeastern Conference by four selectors a year ago, made 72 tackles in 2003 and led the SEC with 18 tackles for loss.
Burns has been named to three preseason national award watch lists, including the Lombardi Award for the top lineman/linebacker, the Bronko Nagurski Award for best defensive player and the Ted Hendricks Award for best defensive end.
Kroger Kickoff Luncheon Set for Fri. Aug. 27:
The Kroger Kickoff Luncheon has been set for Fri., Aug. 27, at 11:30 a.m. at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Lexington.
UK President Dr. Lee Todd, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, and Coach Rich Brooks will be the featured speakers. The cost is $40 per person or $400 for a table of 10. Reservations are required and may be made by calling Lori Armstrong at 257-5526.