O-Line Coach Right For UK?

Almost immediately after Coach Jimmy Heggins accepted the position at the University of Kentucky to take over the offensive line duties, <i>Inside Kentucky</i> was on the phone, calling on contacts in Florida to see why a coach from FSU would end up at UK.

The answer: Rich Brooks.

"I've always admired Coach Heggins," long time Florida high school coach Troy Brown said, "he's a terrific man, whom will set the bar very high at Kentucky. He'll do an excellent job at molding kids from the moment he arrives."

Heggins and the Seminoles produced a number of NFL offensive linemen and have had two offensive linemen selected in the first round of the NFL draft over the last six years. Seattle selected Walter Jones with the No. 6 overall pick four years ago and he started for the Seahawks as a rookie. Tra Thomas was selected with the 11th pick of the 1999 draft by Philadelphia. Both have become perennial All-Pros. In fact, FSU's 1996 offensive line produced three NFL players with Clay Shiver starting at center for the Dallas Cowboys in 1997 and Todd Fordham, who is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most recently Brett Williams, who was twice named the ACC's top blocker, was selected by Kansas City in the 2003 draft along with Todd Williams (Tennessee Titans).

Not bad for a guy considered to be washed up and kicked around by Florida State fans for years.

"He got a bad wrap for years at Florida State because he allegedly had been teaching these kids to be noseguards," Brown said. "The fact of the matter is, Heggins had to change his philosophy because of the hand he was dealt at quarterback."

"Rix was one of the most difficult quarterbacks to protect because of the lack of discipline which was instilled, even after four years. Last season, he had to fill four new spots on the offensive line after graduation and early departures left him with little to nothing. When you've got a quarterback like Rix and a depleted roster to work with - you're gonna experience some problems."

According to Brown, whom has bounced around several Sarasota-Brandenton area high schools and currently has a son that plays Division 1 football, the ability to produce lineman with great quickness will be very benefitial to UK's football program down the line.

"He was a track coach for three years in Miami. He knows how to teach speed and he knows how to get his offensive lineman in shape. Those kids will be the same in the fourth quarter as they were in the first. I'm a Tennessee fan, so I am well aware of the fourth quarter collapses that UK experienced.

"That won't happen with Heggins."

What perhaps excited the Wildcat nation the most, is the recruiting ties to Florida, where Coach Heggins not only coached for 19 years, but starred in Tallahassee.

"There's a coaching closeness down here, not seen in other places," Brown said of Heggins. "He's got some teammates of his that are still in the coaching ranks and the connections he's gonna bring to the table in the state of Florida are tremendous. He brought in Peter Warrick from when he was in charge of the southern Tampa area. He did that on his own. He was a big part in landing Adrian McPhereson, despite being in charge of the Miami area."

"I got to see him a little bit when he was recruiting James Buchanan at Cardinal Mooney. Since he's left, I think FSU's only brought in Atkins from that area."

The struggles in the Miami area were well documented in the state of Florida the past few years.

"Just knowing how Heggins operates, I never understood why he went down to South Florida in the first place. He's just not the type to have in that territory. The kids in Dade County are a different breed and don't necessarily care too much for the other intangibles that come along in recruiting."

Asked to further elaborate.

"Let's just say academics and integrity aren't at the top of their lists of concerns. Miami offers them the chance to play at home and have their families watch them. If they are able and willing to leave because they were raised in a house where they are fortunate enough to have that chance - then they go to Auburn or NC State."

Heggins, who played for the Seminoles in the mid `70s and was defensive MVP in 1976, came to FSU in 1986 as a full-time coach after a year at Southwestern Louisiana where he tutored the defensive ends. Prior to his stint with the Ragin' Cajuns, he was running backs coach at Eastern Michigan for two years and Western Illinois for a year. He coached the tight ends and then the noseguards at FSU prior to taking over offensive line duties in 1994 when Brad Scott left to become head coach at South Carolina.

Under Heggins, 11 Florida State offensive linemen earned All-America honors, including five first team All-Americans. Eight Seminole offensive linemen have been drafted since Heggins took over and NFL draft experts are predicting both offensive tackles Alex Barron and Ray Willis will add to that number in April.

Barron, a two-time consensus All-American, is expected to be selected in the first round of the draft which would make three Heggins' protégés taken in the first round over the last nine years alone.

A native of Salisbury, N.C., Heggins began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at East Carolina in 1980. He filled the same role at FSU in 1981 and `82.

"He's going to UK because of Coach Brooks," Brown concluded. "I think he's hurt as to the way FSU pushed him away and I really think he's gonna have a chip on his shoulder when he hits Lexington. He's gonna do some great things for y'all."

FSU Media Relations representatives helped with this report. Be sure to pick up your Inside Kentucky Magazine and get an even more in-depth interview and report on Coach Jimmy Heggins.

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