Linebackers gained valuable experience in '05

Kentucky entered the 2005 season with a single Upperclassman at linebacker, Raymond Fontaine. The remaining linebackers were freshmen and sophomores. UK Defensive Coordinator Mike Archer knew these youngsters would make mistakes, he also knew that the freshmen and sophomores would learn from the experience.

Before every Kentucky football game this season, defensive coordinator Mike Archer wrote the words be patient at the top of his stat sheet to remind himself that UK's young linebackers were going to make mistakes.

"You are only going to learn through experience. These guys were freshmen and sophomores. We didn't have a linebacker older than a sophomore except for Raymond Fontaine. Now we have to develop those guys," Archer said.

Archer knew it would be difficult for such a young group of linebackers to play well against seasoned Southeastern Conference competition. He noticed how many mature Tennessee's veteran linebackers looked compared to his young players — and he pointed that out to his players during Saturday's loss to the Vols.

"Tennessee had older, stronger guys. I told some of our guys that I hoped they watched Tennessee's linebackers because that is what they could be in three years. I hope we can get like that, but we still have a long ways to go," Archer said.

Still, next year figures to be better. Sophomore Wesley Woodyard is an emerging star as his 18-tackle performance against Tennessee proved. True freshman Braxton Kelley played well at middle linebacker before suffering a season-ending knee injury that allowed redshirt freshman Ben McGrath to prove he could play, too. Sophomore Joe Schuler started most of the season. True freshmen Johnny Williams and Mikhail Mabry have enormous potential if they can learn the system.

"They all have a lot of work to do in the weight room," Archer said. "But more importantly, they have to learn the pace you have to play at in this league. We don't understand that yet. We do it for a while, but we don't do it for a whole game."

Archer wants his linebackers to play like the ones at Tennessee did when the Vols got ahead of Kentucky. "They were teeing off on us. We didn't do that at Vanderbilt when we had the lead," Archer said. "You have to finish the game. That was a great lesson for us against Tennessee. Their linebackers were like piranha going after our quarterback. That's what I want us to do.

"But we have to recruit more guys, too. We wore down. We played too many plays during the season. Your body can't do it. We played too much, but it was our own fault. We have to get to where we can get ourselves off the field, but the experience our linebackers got this year should help us do that a lot better next year."


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