DEMAREE; SEC Media Days kicks off the UK season

HOOVER, Ala.-Despite delays, re-routings, and thunderstorms Kentucky coach Rich Brooks finally arrived at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama at approximately 10:30 p.m. Thursday night. Here's a look at coach Brooks' outlook, player comments, and more tidbits from inside the media room.

We will be addressing many of the things he had to say in the coming days, but his overall theme for the press was that this team would be his best since he's been at UK. Brooks also expressed the fact that this team is young in some areas and that the 2006 team will be real good. His job security was a prime area of questioning, and he said that is something he can't control.

Brooks took Tommy Cook and Muhammad Abdullah to Birmingham with him as UK's student-athlete representatives.

The positive thinking clichés circulate annually around the UK team. We poignantly addressed a couple of them with the players. Cook was asked what about this team makes it any different than the last couple years in term of the ability to win.

"I'll sum it up in one word - ATTITUDE - from the coaches to the last player. The players are more confident and the coaches have instilled more confidence in us. Our workouts have been far more challenging."

To the question of constantly hearing the team is bigger, faster and stronger as a result of summer workouts, Abdullah chippily responded: "We've got it on paper. The guys are bigger, faster and stronger. You can see the biceps and the triceps."

Certain player representatives making their way to SEC Media Days seem to put stock in how they are dressed and the two most outstanding dressers were Abdullah and offensive lineman Marcus McNeil of Auburn. My Kentucky bias gives the edge to Abdullah but McNeil's white four-button row suit with a lapelled vest also drew rave reviews. McNeil almost got the nod from me with a catchy quote.

When asked about his suit he said: "My mother dressed me, licked my eyebrows, smacked me on the butt and sent me on my way."

Which is the toughest place to play in the league? "All of the stops in the SEC are tough but South Carolina and Alabama have been the toughest places to play since I've been here," Brooks said.

Does having four new head coaches in the SEC make thing harder in what to expect? No, was the response from Brooks.

"You'll have some tape on them." Implying that he's known Steve Spurrier for years, Brooks noted "I coached Spurrier when he was a player in the early sixties at the San Francisco 49ers. Dick Nolan was the head coach there at the time."

"We have two of Ole Miss' coaches on the staff in Kurt Roper and Rick Petrie. I think we will know something about their personnel." With Florida's Urban Meyer being from the west coast, one would think Brooks will have plenty informants on the left coast.

Tommy Cook is probably one of the most unique players to come down the pike ever. Prior to his redshirt senior season, he tore up a knee in the spring game, which for all intents and purposes ended his career. He became a student coach and after last season was granted a rare hardship sixth season allowing him to return to the field.

To that end Cook said: "It offers a different perspective especially going in with the coaches every now and then. Every now and then you may hear things you don't want to hear about the way they feel about how they want to approach things. I would have thought it from a different angle. It's impressive how coaches think about players they are playing against and what about people you would never know about."

The Cats report August 5. Be sure and continue to stay tuned to Kentucky Sports Report for more coverage of SEC Media Days and the Kentucky Wildcats as they prepare for the opening game battle against in-state rival Louisville.


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