Position Battles to Watch in Spring '06

Coach Brooks made good on his promise to bring more competition to Lexington. Speed, athleticism and strength pollute a roster that is nearly full for the first time in the four-year head man's career.

And no one is happier about that than Brooks.

Perhaps, no place on UK's roster is the talent upgrade more evident of the changes in coach Brooks' program than at offensive line, where UK welcomes a host of redshirt freshmen that will be asked to compete, as well as welcome the addition of Aaron Miller back from a year off.

"If Matt (McCutcheon) gets his sixth year, we'd have all five starters return, " Brooks stated. "But I'd be shocked if all five starters from last year are starters this year."

For the first time in recent memory, UK's roster is nearly 2-3 deep at every spot on the offensive line.

"We have some people who are going to push them out of jobs," Brooks explained, "either that, or they're going to be a helluva lot better player than they were last year."

And the competition only gets higher come fall practice, when UK's best recruiting class in years heads to Lexington.

Here are some positions to look for in the spring of 2006, as the competition for starting jobs continues in Rich Brooks' fourth season as head football coach.

5. Fullback
Like the high school girlfriend you dumped for the head cheerleader, you just don't know how good you got it, until it's gone. Departed five year senior Alexis Bwenge has graduated and UK begins looking for an ample replacement for the always reliable Bwenge. Early speculation has walk-on redshirt freshmen John Connor winning the job, but he will be limited because of an ankle injury. Brooks says Terrell Bankhead will move from tailback this spring and will get a look, but after that, the cup is empty. In response, Brooks brought in two additional walk-ons at fullback in Jesse Jones and James Davidson. Can the Wildcats strike gold twice?

4. Wide Receiver
Does anyone want to step up and take the job? John Logan, Demoreo Ford, Joe Joe Brown, Ducky Lyons and junior college walk-on, Chris Ollinger will compete for the starting spot opposite Keenan Burton this spring, in what is regarded as one of the more important spring battles heading into fall camp. Those participating in spring ball will be granted a special opportunity to impress the coaching staff before arguably the most talented crop of receivers in years arrives to Lexington in the fall.

3. Center
Talk about the ultimate test of mental willpower. Imagine you are Casey Shumate, Travis Slaydon and Jorge Gonzalez heading into spring practice, knowing very well that you might be competing for a starting spot or very well competing for the right to sit the bench for the rest of the season. While senior Matt McCutcheon awaits word on the final decision pending by the NCAA, Kentucky's three back-up centers compete for the right to take over his starting position if the ruling comes down unfavorably. The three back-ups total just 2 varsity letters in 10 years of being apart of the UK football team.

2. Right Defensive End
Arguably the weakest part of UK's defense, the spring question of who will take over for B. Jay Parsons at right end, continues on. Freshmen Jeremy Jarmon, who was expected to play an impact in coach Rick Petri's decision will be on the shelf with a leg injury, as will Eric Mueller, a 6-foot-3, 233 pound junior. The good news, however, was that Dominic Lewis has added some weight and is now up to 263 pounds. He's expected to push Nii Adjei Oninku, who at 245 pounds, is one of the faster ends on the team. This group will be pushed by an incoming freshmen class of defensive ends that is ranked in the top 10 in the country.

1. Left Tackle
James Alexander is on the shelf and won't be available for spring practice, except in spot situations, but when he returns he'll have to deal with a host of characters that make up arguably UK's second deepest position on the team. Garry Williams, Aaron Miller and Zach Hennis will all vie for the left tackle spot this season and will most importantly have a chance to impress the coaching staff while last season's starter, Alexander, sits. The sophomore from Atlanta has put on an additional 30 pounds and should be a lot bigger than last season's season starting weight at 250. Sophomore Aaron Miller returns at 300 pounds.


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