VAUGHT: Still possible to judge Brooks this year

With Kentucky so decimated with injuries and now facing eight straight Southeastern Conference opponents, I wondered how one could fairly evaluate Rich Brooks and his staff on their job performance.

Obviously, Kentucky is going to have less overall talent than the teams it has left to play. The talent gap Saturday against Florida will be huge.

So knowing that, is there a fair way to gauge if Brooks' team is improving? That's the question I posed to former UK offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. He's now a consultant to various high school football teams as well as a sports radio guest analyst and writer.

His weekly column for a Lexington publication this week just happened to deal with this same subject and Franklin noted that Brooks had lost the talent to injuries he needed to have a realistic chance to win four, five or even six games this year.

"But that doesn't mean there are not ways to judge Brooks' ability and whether the program is making progress," Franklin said.

First, he said to watch the team's intensity. Obviously, that was missing at Indiana. Franklin says even an outmanned team can give "incredible" effort if properly motivated by a coaching staff.

Second, be courageous. He says Brooks has to play to win and be willing to take chances. Gamble on fourth down in hopes of keeping the offense on the field and the defense off. Send an all-out blitz and quit worrying about giving up an 80-yard pass play. "It doesn't matter if you lose by 20 or 30 points if fans and players sense that you are trying to win," Franklin said.

Third, be smart in practice. Resist the temptation to scrimmage or have live tackling drills that could produce more injuries. "It's more important to have players fresh and energetic on Saturday than it is to beat them up during the week," Franklin said. "

Fourth, be positive. Franklin says he wants Brooks to become a "great liar" and tell everyone that this team has enough talent to win. "Maybe the players will believe him and want to prove him right. That way maybe they can win one or two more games, which would be a great coaching job with the talent he has left," Franklin said.

So if you are at the Florida game or just watching it on TV, look at UK's intensity and willingness to gamble. See if the players look energetic or tired. Notice if the coaches are encouraging, or discouraging, the players. Remember, those things might be a better indicator of just what type of coaching job Brooks is doing than what the scoreboard will show.

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