KERRI BROOKS: Young Cats need time

Trying to catch the first two Kentucky games was nowhere near as painful as watching the Indiana game last Saturday. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that the Cats were going to dig deep and find a way out of the hole that had been dug. They had found a way back into the Louisville game, they had fought like dogs and come out on top of the Idaho State game; but the hole was too deep in Indiana.

It was hard not to turn off the television. It was a painful struggle to suffer through the game, knowing we needed a win to keep the natives from getting too restless.

Well no surprise, the natives are restless. The natives are calling for my Dad's head. The negativity and venom that some are spewing against the program, and, particularly my Father, is hard to deal with. The question was recently posed to me as to how I deal with the criticism of him and the job he is doing. It isn't easy.

Last Sunday I was in Charlotte for the Panthers game. I ran into Terry Donahue, (who was the head coach at UCLA for twenty years or so, and most recently the Director of Player Personnel for the 49ers), he asked how it was going in Kentucky. After I gave him the old "dogs are circling" speech, he said what everyone on the outside of the program says. "He is building the program! I hope they give him the chance to get it done."

Jim Skipper, running back coach for the Panthers, gave me the same speech. They both said they were going to check in with my father during the week to see how he was doing. Tim Dwight, a wide receiver for the New England Patriots, also had some kind words for my Dad. (Tim played for the Falcons when my Dad was there). Hearing positive comments from people like that seems to take some of the sting out of the Brooks-bashing that is going on in Lexington.

People that are my father's peers have the perspective that perhaps only players and coaches can really have. They live on the inside. They live every day facing the facts that fans/critics seem to become oblivious to when things start going poorly. The number of injuries the Cats have suffered this year is unbelievable.

Looking beyond the injuries, lets get back to the other truths that still exist. This team is young. Four of the top six skilled guys are sophomores. (Burton, Tamme, Woodson, and Little). Fourteen of the top 22 players on defense are freshmen or sophomores. Add in the injuries, and where does that leave the Cats? Last year we played twenty true freshmen. I restate: the team is young.

Yes, we are off scholarship restrictions (some people hate hearing about this, but the truth is: it is still having a huge impact on the program) but it still takes a few years to recover from the repercussions of this. A football team cannot rebound overnight from sanctions that have taken hold of the program.

I find it interesting that only around sixty of the players on the current roster were recruited. This means that there is a fair amount of guys that walked-on and earned spots to play, because Kentucky needed them! Seven or so of our top 22 on offense were non-recruited players. Can you imagine where we would be without the heart and desire these guys have to just play football? They are giving it everything they have every week.

We might not have the ‘biggest and the baddest', but we have guys that are laying it on the line every week, heart and soul. They deserve patience. They deserve to be supported for coming to Kentucky, under, not the best of times. In my (biased, yet humble) opinion, the same courtesy should be held out for the coaches. My father knew coming in, it is very hard to rebuild a program. He also felt, and still feels, that Kentucky has the tools to get it done. If you saw the Louisville game, you saw some of the future. It was exciting. The deal breaker? TIME.

Several of my work compadres on the CBS college crew have been calling me from Lexington. Most of them have not been to Lexington for a football game, although a few of them have been some time ago. The reports of how much they love Lexington are pouring in. I sure hope that they get a great game, and Commonwealth stadium is shown in all of its glory. Not only do I have this obsessive desire for the Cats to do well every weekend, but this weekend I feel even more stress. I want my Dad to get a huge win, on my network, and the fans at Commonwealth to make some of the best television of the year. I'll be watching!!

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