FOOTBALL: 'Cats take on UT amid coaching questions

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks tried to spend last week's open date focusing on his team and preparing for this week's game at Tennessee, but it probably wasn't an easy thing to do.

It's hard to focus completely on football when speculation is circling about your job status and both the university president and the athletic director are admitting your job security is under scrutiny.

Kentucky is 2-8 in Brooks' second season as head coach. Brooks is 6-16 in two seasons after inheriting a program hit hard by NCAA probation and sanctions.

Neither Kentucky president Lee Todd nor athletic director Mitch Barnhart offered any assurances about Brooks in interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal last week.

"I wouldn't speculate on anything," Todd said. "If you're winning, it's an easy decision. When you're not ... it's harder. We're in the harder category. We had hoped to have a few more victories this season, no doubt."

Barnhart also admitted that change is possible.

"You've got to make adjustments in your program to get better all the time," Barnhart said. "The evaluation we're going through right now will reflect that, I hope. The adjustments will move this program in the direction we want to go. We'll have to see where that lands....

"We'll do it as quickly as we can because it's important to move on to the next stage of the program."

Brooks may have to decide at some point whether or not he is willing to make staff changes to keep his job.

NOTES, QUOTES
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Kentucky did come through with two fourth-quarter touchdowns when it really mattered, but this is still the same offense that ranks 115th nationally out of 117 Division I-A teams in both scoring and total offense, with 14.2 points and 270 total yards per game. The Wildcats also rank last in the SEC in another key category, with 24 turnovers.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The expected progress the defense was supposed to make this season never materialized, due partly to injuries to key veterans and the suspension of FS Mike Williams, but the Wildcats did manage to hold Vanderbilt scoreless in the fourth quarter last week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The time frame in college athletics is being squeezed everywhere. It used to be that you'd have 5-7 years to get a program turned around, then you had 4-6, then 3-5. Now it's a much shorter time frame. That's the nature of our business. Our desire at Kentucky is to win, not just compete and get through it, but to win." -- Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Kentucky at Tennessee, Nov. 27 -- It's too late for a winning season, but the Wildcats could at least finish strong and build some confidence with a competitive performance against Tennessee.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QBs Andre Woodson and Shane Boyd -- Woodson has emerged as the better quarterback over the past month but played a limited role last week against Vanderbilt because of a sprained ankle. Still, it was Boyd who stood up and threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the 14-13 win over Vandy.

DB Muhammad Abdullah -- With senior FS Mike Williams suspended for the rest of the season Abdullah has had to carry a heavier load. He carried it well against Vanderbilt with 10 tackles, eight solos, two tackles for losses, two sacks and a forced fumble. He ranks second on the team with 53 tackles and leads the team with three INTs and two fumble recoveries.

ROSTER REPORT: While the open date could slow down some of Kentucky's new momentum, it should also allow several players to return for the Tennessee game, including KR Dicky Lyons Jr. (shoulder), RB Tony Dixon (ankle) and, RB-PR Andrew Hopewell (thigh), DE Ellery Moore (ankle), DE Sweet Pea Burns (ankle) and CB Earven Flowers (hip). ... Even the open date will not likely be enough time for freshman linebacker Wesley Woodyard to return from a badly sprained ankle. Woodyard has been one of the bright spots in the second half of the season after moving from safety.


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