VAUGHT: Little stepping up big

With all the emphasis on Andre Woodson's accurate passing and more potential downfield throwing, it has been easy to overlook what could be the most impressive part of Kentucky's offense during spring practice.

Sophomore running back Rafael Little has been sensational most of spring practice. He's making defenders miss. He's hitting holes with speed and power. He's breaking tackles. He's catching passes.

He showed flashes of his brilliance last year when he rushed for 265 yards. He had six receptions for 105 yards against Georgia and ran 10 times for 68 yards the next week against Vanderbilt.

That's when Little was getting back to 100 percent from the 2004 summer knee surgery that kept him from fully showcasing his talent last year. But now he's obviously healthy and putting on a show at spring practice.

"How exceptional has he looked? He's really elusive, has great feet and his vision is what you hope a running back has," Kentucky quarterback coach Kurt Roper said. "The thing that excites me more than anything is that you can create mismatches in space with him as a wide receiver. There are not a lot of running backs that can line up at wide receiver and catch the ball running proper routes. He gives you a good dimension to do that."

Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips knew the Little playing for Kentucky last season was not the same player he recruited out of South Carolina.

"Right now he is what I saw in high school week in and week out," Phillips said. "The guy has some kind of speed that nobody can describe. He doesn't look like he running real fast, but nobody catches him. He's outrunning angles. He is physical guy. He can catch ball. He is a guy you can do a lot of things with."

Phillips says the Cats want to average about 200 yards rushing per game. That's almost double what the offense has produced the last two years.

"We have not run the football well the last couple of years. Rafael is a guy we can get the ball to 20 times a game and get the running game established," Phillips said. "His running will be a huge part of our offense and could really help make us a lot better offense."

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