VAUGHT: Brooks pleased with where team is headed

Rich Brooks knows his team still needs help at certain positions from incoming freshmen players next season. However, the Kentucky coach also knows that he feels better about his football team now than he did before spring practice started.

Rich Brooks knows his team still needs help at certain positions from incoming freshmen players next season. However, the Kentucky coach also knows that he feels better about his football team now than he did before spring practice started.

"I'm really pleased overall with where we are headed," Brooks said after Saturday's Blue-White Game. "We have a lot of young players that are getting better."

He's right. Start with quarterback Andre Woodson, who was 30-for-47 passing for 478 yards and four scores against Kentucky's second team defense. He threw long balls. He hit intermediate routes. He dumped the ball off to his running back.

"He has a chance to be a big-time player," Brooks said. "He's still learning how fast paced this game is. But he sees the field well and he throws accurately. He's got work to do, but I like what he's done.

"(Assistant) Coach (Kurt) Roper has done a good job getting him to keep the ball higher. He doesn't drop it down and wind up like he did last year. The ball gets out quicker."

Woodson said UK was throwing the ball more the second half Saturday to work on its two-minute drill and that inflated his statistics some.

"But we stayed focused, didn't let the cold, wet weather bother us and did what we were supposed to do," he said. "This game showcased what we are capable of doing."

It helps to have Tommy Cook back catching the ball, too. It was a year ago that Cook injured his knee in the spring game and ended up missing the 2004 season. He had eight catches for 170 yards Saturday.

"I'm just glad to be back playing," Cook said. "I think there are certain things I can do for this team."

Tight end Jacob Tamme continued his impressive spring play with five catches for 75 yards, including a 36-yard catch when he pushed safety Dallas Greer out of the way.

"If Jacob Tamme stays healthy, he's going to be a big name in college football," Brooks said. "He's got special receiving skills."

"Jacob Tamme has also played really well. He's given the defense a lot of problems," defensive lineman Lamar Mills said.

Sophomore Dicky Lyons, who had been inconsistent most of the spring, made seven catches for 65 yards and two scores. He took advantage of injuries to four other receivers to prove he still could be a factor on next year's team.

"Dicky has been an interesting case study," Brooks said. "He had a terrible spring and then had a great game today. A quarterback has to be able to count on a receiver and know where he'll be. Dicky has not understood that. He's busted assignments. He has ability and made a major step forward today. He just wasted a lot of days earlier this year."

Brooks also felt his No. 1 defense played well after getting pushed around the opening series. He especially liked what he saw from middle linebacker Joe Schuler, who had four unassisted tackles.

"He's physical and has SEC size. He has decent speed. He's not as fast as some, but he's fast enough," Brooks said. "He's a guy who is like a coach in there. He has leadership ability I like. He's also a physical player, which we need. He'll stick his nose in there and get after people."

Brooks also thought tackle Ricky Abren made his presence known, especially once when he knocked offensive lineman Fatu Turituri into Woodson.

"He was giving Turituri all he could handle," Brooks said.

Cornerback Bo Smith has also shown Brooks he's fully recovered from last year's head trauma that made him miss the 2004 season.

"I'm sure he started out being a little nervous about getting hit but he's playing with no fear in his heart," Brooks said.

The players are also playing as one happy unit, something that wasn't true a year ago.

"Not everybody was on the same page last year. Some of those players are gone now. Others now are on the same page," Abren said. "We have a closer group, a group that believes we can win and that will make a big, big difference. Just wait and see."


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