I think we have got a lot of young players that are exciting with talent and speed, guys like Keenan Burton, Rafael Little, Andre Woodson, Jacob Tamme. These are names that many of you didn't know and haven't heard. Tony Dixon, Wesley Woodyard, Johnny Williams, Mikhail Mabry, Joe Schuler, and these guys are basically all sophomores and many of them played as true freshman last year.
I think we're a team that is a better football team going into this season than the two teams that preceded it. We're still a thin team depth-wise. We're a team that unfortunately is still down in numbers. Because of the probation, we will have about 76 players on scholarship which includes four players that I am adding that were walk-ons that played significant roles for us this past year.
A year from now, we will be at about 85. That's I think the end of the numbers problem that Kentucky faced because of the probation, will come next fall. I think we're an improved football team attitude-wise. We're an improved football team speed-wise. We're a young team particularly on the defensive side.
At linebacker, we're going to be very inexperienced with more speed than we have at linebacker since I've been there. And I think we're going to be a better team than most people perceive us to be.
What we need to do is try to finish the deal. Like the game we had at Tennessee last year, at the end of the season, we really, I think, had a game that we could have won and let it slip away in the last 38 seconds. That kind of follows suit from the Florida game the year before the Arkansas game, the 7 overtime. We need to get several of those games this year.
And I think the improvement, what I think is happening at Kentucky will be very obvious. If we don't, we will have to be judged on the playing on the filed and competition we are.
So having said, that I will open up to any questions.
Coach Rich Brooks
Q. Offensively, how do you plan to -- you want to stretch the field a little more.
How do you plan to improve things compared to a year ago particularly?
RICH BROOKS: Catch more passes, find the end zone more often would be a good start. I think it centered around Andre Woodson. Andre had a great spring. He started the game on the road against Auburn and played the whole game a year ago, and had a few brilliant moments, as well as freshman moments in that game.
The bottom line is Andre Woodson had as a productive a spring at quarterback as anybody that I have coached in a lot of years. He is 6'5", 230 pounds who can throw the ball extremely accurately. He is a very good passer, a guy that is tough in the pocket. He needs to hang onto the ball in the pocket and has a tendency a keep it away from his body, and defensive players were able to slap it out of there a few times last year. I think, he is a guy that has the ability to be a rising star in this league at that position.
I believe we have some good weapons to throw to. A guy like Scott Mitchell caught nine balls against Tennessee last year. Jacob Tamme at tight end caught two touchdown passes at the end of the season against Tennessee. We get Keenan Burton back healthy, after playing as a true freshman, and catch a bunch of balls two years ago. He missed last year with an injury. I think we have some weapons, and Andre will be the key.
Q. Rich, you and the players have all talked about the improved attitude and maybe feeling a little bit more of a momentum in the off season than maybe in the past.
Anything you can put your finger on; is it coming out of the probation, them knowing you and you knowing the players better, anything like that?
RICH BROOKS: I think it's a process. I think it's a situation where many of the players were recruited by Coach Morris, different systems, attitudes, and we didn't have success coming out of the barrel when we lost the Florida game and lost the Arkansas game two years ago. Some of those players maybe thought, okay, you know, I am not going to buy into this or whatever.
But the bottom line is I think there's more of a commitment to doing it the same way. We have more of the guys pulling the wagon in the same direction and less detractors in the locker room maybe than we have had in the past, and I think that's part of the healing process and part of the process that has to do with coming about when you are trying to come out of the darkness into the light which Kentucky football has been in since the probation.
The probation is over finally. We will be able to recruit like everybody else with 25 scholarships. It's a different, I think, attitude, and the players have worked very hard. We have had fewer players on what I call my bad list. I call it something else, but I can't say that in print or in TV or radio or anything else, but we have had fewer of those guys that don't do what they're supposed to do. And that also helps the team unit be a little bit -- you don't have, you know, the guys that are cutting the corners and doing the things their way rather than the way it should be done.
Q. You spent a lot of time in the NFL where you settle everything on the field.
Give us your thoughts on the BCS process and how fair it is or unfair it is in your mind?
RICH BROOKS: I don't think the BCS is fair totally, but it's probably the best attempt at being fair that college football has made. I know they're tweaking it and trying to do some different things.
I am kind of a proponent of the old way, where I think the controversy for college football is great. And really the team that got hosted, if you will, last year, was Auburn. I mean they were a great football team. I mean 13 and 0, 12 and 0. What were they; 13 or 12? 13?
I mean and not to have an opportunity to play in a National Championship game, you know, that -- that's not right. But on the other side, you know, several years ago, I know my old school, Oregon, had to play in the Fiesta Bowl because the team that had gotten killed in the championship game, I think was Nebraska, went on and played in the championship in the BCS, that wasn't right. But what it does, is it creates interest and controversy in college football.
What I would like to see happen, and this is just a lone voice in the woods speaking, I would like to see, after the bowl games, a two -- a one game National championship game between the two highest ranked teams left after the bowl games. Give it a two-week window to give the fans and the players time to recuperate.
Again, one of the things I find interesting, we can play a 12th game during the school year, when this process -- and I am talking about it will probably happen when most schools are not in session before the Winter semester started, semester schools at least.
And what you always hear from college presidents is that, you know, we can't -- we don't want to disrupt their academics, and really football players miss less class time than any spot in NCAA competition. They have missed less class time than any other sport.
Q. Could you talk to me about your freshman class coming in and when you will know exactly or how you think they will be eligible and what problems you might have there and also talk a little bit about Abdullah Muhammad and what role you see him playing this year?
RICH BROOKS: Let me start with Muhammad Abdullah first. Muhammad is one of the -- I think what I would term a quiet leader. He's one of those guys like the commercial, "When E.F. Hutton talks, everybody listens." He doesn't talk very often, so when he has something to say, our team listens. And he is a guy that plays the game like Sweet Pea Burns played it, snap to whistle. He gives everything he has got, and he wants to win and it's a deep-seated desire to do it and he is not going to be a rah, rah guy out there, but he is going to talk to teammates when he thinks he needs to I think.
The freshman class, we have approximately 20 freshman that will be joining us this next week on Friday when we report. We still have a couple of guys that are still in the process, under review in the clearing house. We have had a couple of guys that were turned down in the clearing house, and we had oversigned, so we have some of the guys that we were going to bring in as gray shirts coming in, and where that will all shake out will be determined probably next Friday.
Q. Also, an NFL college-type of question, how much has the NFL philosophy trickled down into college in the last 10, 20 years in terms of the offenses they are trying to do that now other defenses doing that.
How has that changed since you have been at both levels and you have seen it?
RICH BROOKS: I am not so sure that trickle down hasn't gone the other way. I think a lot of the things that we're being done in college kind of started to be done in the NFL and some of them have refined it and maybe done it better because they spend a lot more time on it.
I think that there is a closer resemblance in the NFL game and the college game than there was 20 years ago. Because 20 years ago, you saw a lot of wishbone, you saw, you know, a lot of different type of offenses in the college level. The split T, the veer, and those type of things, and now you are seeing almost all of the teams, even the ones that do run option, are throwing the ball "NFL style." But the difference to me is, in the NFL, there's just not enough quarterbacks in that league to go around to make it work.
Q. Coach, one of the main differences between Andre Woodson and the graduated Shane Boyd, how has the team reacted to Andre's leadership?
RICH BROOKS: Well, Andre is not nearly the runner that Shane was, so you will see him running the ball less. I mean, we won't have as many options or as many quarterback run plays as Shane Boyd had.
And based on what I have seen, Andre is a more accurate passer and throws the deep ball better and more accurately than Shane did. And I know Shane is getting the shot at Tennessee, and he is a great athlete with a tremendous arm, and I think he will impress people and I hope he gets some shots and preseason games to show what he can do.
Q. Rich, what do you think about the new NCAA rule that allowed freshman to come in, take classes, I guess, in July? Did you have any guys take advantage of that? What's your stance on that?
RICH BROOKS: Well, I think it's a great change. Interestingly, basketball has been able to do it for several years, and now football is allowed to do it. And we have 14 freshmen in summer school. I think it's a great opportunity to get their feet on the ground academically, get them exposed to the workout regime and get them prepared, if you will, in the summer conditioning.
But more importantly, they're allowed, you know -- we're having our guys take six units, and it just helps them, I think, make that transition and understand the importance of what they're going to need to do and how different it's going to be without having 15 units thrown at them and the football season right on top of them. I think it's a great transition tool.
Particularly, when you consider the infinite wisdom of the APR, that now, all of a sudden, in the 40 percent, 60 percent, 80 percent rule, the grade point requirements, all of those things, I think it's important that freshmen can come in and get just a start, a foundation, if you will, academically. I am just going to follow-up on that answer.
To me the other thing that the NCAA needs to do for football is what we do for every other sport, including basketball, who can take their players out in the off season, all five of them and practice with a basketball and work on individual skill things with them. We can't do any of that in football.
How can the NCAA discriminate against football when they allow every other NCAA sport in the off season to take a player out, and work the -- say, take your quarterback and you want to work on drops for 20 minutes or half an hour in the off season. We can't do that. Swimming can do it, tennis can do it, golf can do it, basketball can do it, volleyball can. All of sports do it. Why can't football do it? I don't understand it. It makes no sense to me.
Q. Coach, you had mentioned all the freshmen that you have got coming in.
What kind of contributions are you expecting from any or all of the freshmen?
RICH BROOKS: Significant contributions. You know, just like last year, we nine true freshmen play, five started. We will have, in my estimation, probably anywhere from 7 to 10 freshmen play significant roles. Some of them may start or push for a starting spot. Depth is part of the issue and part of it is some of the guys coming in are pretty good.
Q. Most coaches, obviously, want continuity as far as their coaching staff and keep things going on. You, obviously, had a lot of turnover. I guess half your staff turned over.
Is that necessarily a good thing, bad thing? How has that worked out for you?
RICH BROOKS: Half. Four out of nine I think. We will quibble over that. 4.5 is half. I think that sometimes -- I am not a big proponent of change. I think staff is continuity is very important. I think I was very fortunate this year to be able to get the quality and the experience in my staff replacements that I did.
I think you get a guy like Jimmy Heggins from Florida State, whose coached some great linemen and done some great things done there. And coming in as offensive line coach, Kurt Roper from Ole Miss, who, obviously, has worked with Eli Manning and be involved with some pretty good quarterback teaching experience.
You know, I just think like, you know, we were pretty fortunate to be able to get the type of people to come in, and the transition to me was very smooth this off season and this Spring. And it ended up being a very productive change and I think it's one that has been received well by the players.
Q. Coach, how much pressure do you feel in terms of job security this year and you do think there's a magic number out there for you?
RICH BROOKS: I am amazed it took that long for somebody to ask that question. I have answered that in every room I have been in about the first question in the door.
You know, job security is, I think, a tenuous thing in athletics today and certainly in the SEC. What, four knew coaches last year, or this year I mean. I can't control job security.
All I can do is control the direction we're headed and the plan and the path to achieve bringing Kentucky out of probation. And, you know, we can get in lengthy discussions on what Kentucky did over the years when they weren't on probation, what they did, when they had success, and then they got put on probation, not soon after they had those problems, and we're going do it the right way.
And whether I am allowed to finish the process or not, I can't control that. And right now, I think we're better football team than we were last year, and we have to now go out and demonstrate that on the football field. I think, as I mentioned, 2006 will be the best team that Kentucky has had in quite a few years. And then you got out to be beat some other really good teams: Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina. All those guys are pretty good.
We went through the process at Oregon, didn't have to deal with the number reduction in the probation when I went in there, but they were a team that didn't have the wherewithal that Kentucky has either when I went in there. And Oregon has done pretty well for quite awhile. And I think the key is to build a Kentucky team that can win more games than they lose, more than just one or two years. It's to do it consistently.
Q. Coach, in college, or in the pro's, have you ever chewed out a player to the point where they started crying or have you ever seen that happen?
RICH BROOKS: Nick didn't take long to have an impression, did he?
No, I have had players cry, but not because they were chewed out. I have had some get mad at me. I think there is, obviously, times in coaching where you may cross the -- cross over the breaking point where maybe you feel bad about how bad you got after somebody. And I have had those moments in coaching, most of them, when I was younger.
I think there are times when players need to be shocked, if you will, with something to get their attention to make sure they're trying to understand what's going on. But it's a different world today than it was 15 years ago, too. And the sensitivities are a lot greater, and I think you have to be cognizant of that.
Q. Coach, have you ever -- what's your policy on scholarship that South Carolina is dealing with right now? Have you ever not renewed kids that you didn't think can kind of cut the mustard?
RICH BROOKS: No. My feeling on scholarship renewal is, is unless they have done something detrimental to the program or the University, or don't comply with what they need to do to be a better player, in other words, they constantly miss weight workouts, they constantly do those types of things, then, you know, I am going to renew them.
It's not their fault if they're not quite good enough to be an SEC player if you will. They were recruited to be one, and somebody thought they could be one. And to me, when a player comes to Kentucky and he works and tries to do what he can do to be a good player, and he keeps his nose clean, stays eligible, I am going to renew him.
Those are the really -- and a lot of those guys are the heart and sole of your football team. I mean they're the guys that never get the star quality recognition, the back-up player, the scout team guy who is out there, you know, practicing every day, taking reps and everything, and that's just to me something that you need to do on a front end.
If you recruited somebody that doesn't end up being good enough, that doesn't mean that you should pull the rug out of from under them. In my opinion, that's the way I treat it.
Q. Coach, you have got Dominic Lewis playing defensive end this year, after he played tailback and fullback last year.
How hard has it been for him to adjust and willing to make the switches to find a position to contribute?
RICH BROOKS: Dominic is one of those guys that you look at and say, "This guy has got to play. He's got to play somewhere." And he is one of those athletes that has very good skill, very good size, and good speed and strength, but he really has had a hard time gasping football.
I mean he is like a guy that doesn't understand all the time what's happening and his reactive ability as a football player isn't what it needs to be. And he is a guy that just works his fanny off, and he wants to do good. But when it comes to taking it from a practice to a scrimmage or a game situation, it doesn't always translate as well as it should.
So we hope that this is a position that he can grow and get used to and we're just going to leave him there, and if he does grasp it, he can be a really good player.
Q. Rich, talk about the little bit different look on your defensive front this year, and, also, what looks to be kind of a bad run, bad luck run of attrition at linebacker.
RICH BROOKS: Well, I think we have switched from the three-four to the four-three. We have been a team that has not been able to stop our opponents running game in the past two years. And last year, it was dismal that way. People just could run the ball at will at us. We feel the four-three, will be a better defense for us to be stronger against the opponents running game.
We have had some off season attrition at linebacker, Dustin Williams, Chad Anderson, and John Sumrall, who now is a graduate assistant for us because he had spinal situation that doctors ruled him out of football.
I think that what that has done is it's opened the door for some faster, impressive young linebackers that need to grow up real fast. They need to play like veterans and they're not, but they're going to get the opportunity to show it. And I think as the season goes on, this linebacking corp will be better and better each week. I am impressed with the players we have there, and they just need to grow up fast.
Two of them are going to be true freshmen that came in January, Johnny Williams and Mikhall Mabry. Physically, they're what you are looking for, size and speed, athletic ability, and at times, in the spring, they really looked good. At other times, they looked like freshmen.
Q. Rich, talk about, other than linebackers, what are some of the position that you anticipate maybe a lot of competition, maybe some movement from the depth chart that you had at the end of Spring?
RICH BROOKS: I think we're going to have more competition at tailback than we have had. I think the cornerback, corner on defensive is going to be a critical position for us.
Bo Smith coming back from the head injury that he sustained last summer, had a good Spring. We have got two young red shirt freshmen in Shomari Moore and Jarrell Williams that I think are going to be factors. A true freshman Trevard Lindley who came in with Johnny and Milhail in the gray shirt in January, that also should be a factor. So that's an area that, if you can't cover people in this league you are in trouble, too.
You know, I am still having nightmares of the fourth quarter in the Georgia game when he three deep coverage and they kept running buy us. Three deep zone. I mean that was a long day. I think the competition at corner is better. And I am interested in watching Curtis Pully compete at quarterback, an incoming freshman, and he will be a factor he will be a factor this year.
Q. Coach, you talked about the freshman. Can you elaborate tight end Zip Duncan, what you expect out much him this year?
RICH BROOKS: I am sorry?
Q. Can you elaborate on Zip Duncan?
RICH BROOKS: Oh, yeah. Big zip? I talked to Zip earlier. Zip is a guy that could play tight end, and defensive end and we're going to start him as a defensive end. Although, the first couple of days, we're going to work of freshmen both ways a little bit in some drills.
I think he is a guy that can come in and be a factor as a freshman as a defensive end. You know, we don't have many 6-5 guys at 250, and can run you know 4-8. So he is an impressive guy. Smart, smart young man, athletic, and I think a guy that can help us defensively.
Q. As far as Pully, I know you will know more next week, when you guys start practicing.
How much do you think he has been able to accomplish this summer?
RICH BROOKS: Like I said, it's really important that they get their feet on the ground academically. He also has the opportunity to go out with a players when they work among themselves also, some throwing the ball. I am sure he has picked up some of the offensive. What we need to do with Curtis is make sure that he has a package of our offensive that's he is comfortable with.
I don't think we can expect him to come in and be ready in the first game with our entire offensive. So we have to figure out what he can do well in the passing game, and in the quarterback run game, and make sure that he has a package that he can go into first game and be very comfortable with.
RICH BROOKS: Thank you guys. Appreciate it.