While head coach Rich Brooks goes on the defensive with fans and the media this week, the entire Kentucky coaching staff is going on the offensive with lineup changes.
Chafing under the weight of 1-4 record and last week's 45-17 home loss to an Alabama team that had not scored a touchdown in its previous six quarters, Brooks was quick to point out the probation, scholarship reductions and recruiting limitations he inherited from former coach Hal Mumme's run-in with the NCAA.
"Many of the problems are not of my creation, my staff's creation or the players' creation," Brooks said. "Many of the problems that got us to this point occurred five years ago. Probation is a problem, and anybody who understands recruiting and numbers has got to understand it isn't going to be fixed overnight."
Fixing it, at least according to Brooks and his coaches, may involve a personnel overhaul that includes an infusion of youth.
"We're playing a lot of (young players) already, and they're playing significant snaps," Brooks said.
From the true freshman class, Tony Dixon is starting at running back and Aaron Miller and Micah Jones are starting on the offensive line. Dicky Lyons Jr. is returning kicks. Wesley Woodyard moved from safety to linebacker last week and made a strong first impression, so his playing time is likely to increase.
Among the redshirt freshmen, defensive end Ricky Abren, receiver Jacob Tamme, tight end Eric Scott and linebacker Joe Schuler are seeing significant playing time and quarterback Andre Woodson is seeing increased playing time off the bench.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Kentucky is 11th in the SEC in scoring and total offense, averaging only 17.4 and 292 yards per game for a multitude of reasons, starting with inconsistent play from the line and 14 turnovers in five games.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Wildcats expected to be on defense this season, but it's hard to tell with a group that allows 306 points and 413 yards per game, both worst in the SEC. It doesn't help that Kentucky has forced only seven opponents' turnovers, lowest in the SEC, or that opponents' averaging starting field position against Kentucky is its 35-yard line, highest in the SEC.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If perception is, 'We've got a problem, we're fixing it and we're working our way out,' that's one perception. If the perception is, 'Fire the coordinator, fire the coach, these guys don't know what they're doing, what a terrible place to go play,' that's another problem. I've dealt with them all, and I'll continue to deal with it and we'll still come out the other end. This is a total problem that belongs to me. I didn't create it. I'm trying to fix it. ... We can bring in (Steve) Spurrier, we can bring in Bill Walsh, we can bring in whoever you want to bring in, and they still have to line up and put players in position to execute with the current situation. They might do a better job than I have. They might not do as good a job as I have." -- Embattled second-year Kentucky coach Rich Brooks.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: South Carolina at Kentucky, Oct. 16 -- South Carolina should be vulnerable after a home loss to Ole Miss, but what can Kentucky do about it? Alabama was supposed to be vulnerable, too, but the Wildcats practically handed the game to the Wildcats in the second half with turnovers. More turnovers in this game will mean another defeat for a downtrodden team turning to its young players in an effort to play toward the future.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Shane Boyd -- When he's got time and room he can be a productive and dangerous quarterback, but he rarely has time and room and often forces too many plays, which become mistakes.
DE Sweet Pea Burns -- He's a key player for the Wildcats but hasn't been the same since a preseason knee injury. That was obvious in the Alabama game when he came close to making several plays but barely missed because he lacked the closing speed that led to an SEC-high 18 tackles for losses in 2003.
ROSTER REPORT: FS Muhammad Abdullah (elbow), freshman kick returner Dicky Lyons Jr. (sternum) and OL Hayden Lane (knee) are all supposed to work through injuries and play this week, while kickoff specialist Clint Ruth should be ready to return after missing the Alabama game with a sprained ankle. ... LB Chad Anderson was Kentucky's leading tackler after three games, but he's since lost his starting position to sophomore Brad Booker. "If I knew what was going on with Chad, I would have solved it three weeks ago," defensive coordinator Mike Archer said. "What happened last year doesn't matter. What matters is that we're not performing this year, and some changes have to be made. That's coaching. Brad has earned a chance to start."