Little coming up big for Cats

There is a lot to like about the way Rich Brooks has handled Rafael Little. The Kentucky coach has allowed Little to make mistakes, as young players are prone to do. Coach doesn't overreact, instead he offers encouragement and then gives him the opportunity to get back on the field and show he has learned from those mistakes. That approach has come up big for Little, as he leads the SEC in All Purpose yards.

Sometimes the best coaching moves are the ones that coaches do not make. Consider Kentucky sophomore Rafael Little.

It might have been easy for coach Rich Brooks to think of benching Little (remember how former UK coach Bill Curry would do that when a player fumbled no matter how well he was playing), or at least reducing his playing time, after his two costly fumbles at South Carolina. The coach resisted and then didn't overreact when Little fumbled again at Mississippi.

Obviously, it was the right choice because Little had a sensational game against Auburn and continues to lead the Southeastern Conference in all-purpose yardage. Not bad for a player who basically was playing at half speed last year when he was coming back from knee surgery.

Brooks also understands that Little has that special quality the great running backs have. He sees openings in defense and can make instant decisions about how to get through those openings.

"He just has that innate ability to see things. He has great instincts and vision," Brooks said. "You don't mess with that."

That's why when Little occasionally makes a mistake on the field, Brooks knows not to overreact. If he did that, he might make Little question his own instincts.

"On the occasion he might miss the hole, you don't say much. The worst thing I could do would be pound into his head and make him doubt those innate decisions he makes. He's right 98 percent of the time and has what separates the good backs from the great backs. He's truly special and I don't want to mess with that," Brooks said.

The only thing Brooks has tried to do is encourage Little to lower his shoulder a little more when he's about to take a hit. That way he can deliver as much, or more, punishment than what he takes.

"When he lowers his shoulder, he can just drop a guy. But there's really not much not to like about Rafael and as we continue to put better players around him, he's only going to get better," Brooks said.

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