VAUGHT: Brooks now at a dilemma at practice

As Rich Brooks continues to come under fire from Kentucky fans, newspaper columnists and even university president Lee Todd, the coach has another dilemma on his hands.

What to do at practice? His team has already suffered so many key injuries that the coach has to find a way to balance doing enough at practice to have his team ready to play on game day with not doing so much that he risks further injuries and depleting his numbers even more.

Brooks says UK's increasing injury list "impacted" practice before the Indiana game. The players did not go out in full gear. Practices were shortened because the team was so beat up.

So what happened? "We went out against Indiana and did not play a physical football game," Brooks said. "There are certain things you have to do in practice. But it puts you in a quandary when you are dealing with so many injuries. Not only are players out of games, but so many players are also limited in what practice time they can even have."

Cornerback Antoine Huffman understands Brooks' reluctance to get anyone else hurt in practice with the Cats already hurting for depth. However, he thinks with eight Southeastern Conference games to come, UK has no choice but to go all out in practice.

"You can't slow down in practice. You can't just play full speed. You have to practice full speed, too," Huffman said. "If you don't practice full speed, you go out in a game and do the same thing. You are not ready. That's why the coaches have to push us, injuries or not. We can't let up."

But Kentucky has let up the last two games against Idaho State and Indiana after playing with a renewed passion in the second half against Louisville. What's happened to that team that outplayed Louisville the second half and came close to a monumental upset?

"That team is still here. Even with injuries, we have guys that have played well," Huffman said. "We just have to come together and find that team again and do the great things we did in the second half against Louisville. We can do that. It has just been a lack of focus and technique on our part. But I think we have to get after it in practice and just pray no one else gets hurt. That's the only way to get ready for games."

But what if two or three more key players got hurt in practice? What would UK do then and would fans scream that Brooks should have known better than to practice so hard?

"What do you think?" Brooks responded. "That's a fine line and one we are trying to walk. There's not a right and wrong answer. We just have to be smart about what we do in practice, but there are some things you just have to do or you won't have a chance on Saturdays."


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