Is there a time in the University of Kentucky's
football history that looks any brighter? I submit to you that the outlook for
the program shows all signs pointing upward.
In the season of 1977 when the university fashioned the best record in the school's history, they were on probation via and option to start it in 1976 and not go to the Peach bowl or go to the bowl and go on probation for a in 1977. The team opted to gamble and go to the Peach Bowl.
After the Hall of Fame Bowl appearances in 1983 and '84, Jerry Claiborne could never get the program over the hump and to a consistent winning level.
Bill Curry because of some faulty recruiting policies could never make progress beyond a Peach Bowl appearance in 1993.
Hal Mumme's bowl appearances were accomplished on the heels of Curry's last two years of corrected recruiting after firing recruiting coordinator Tommy Limbaugh – to little to late! Right after Mummy's second bowl appearance, alleged recruiting violations started to swirl around the program.
So on to coach Rich Brooks, who comes in with the school on probation and under a cloud of negativity, in his fourth year gets the team in a bowl. Difference is in this situation, he did it with a young team and has most of them coming back in 2007 led by an All-American caliber quarterback. Yes, the schedule looks tougher in 2007 but with the team returning 16 starters, with 16 of the first 22 defensive players being freshmen and sophomores, there's an excellent bet that the team's going to be better.
UK played 14 true freshmen this season second only to the University of Southern California, who played fifteen true freshmen. In 2005 UK played 13 true freshmen, which was third most in the nation.
The UK coaching staff has proven to be very effective recruiters largely on the strength of smart evaluation of talent. Assistant head coach Steve Ortmayer said Rich Brooks is a great closer in a recruits home. The greatest harvest of the bowl win will be seen in the 2008 recruiting class barring a collapse in 2007.
Notice, there was very little talk of lack of conditioning this season. Yet, Strength and Conditioning coach Marc Hill is still in charge. Back in the summer, Fatu Turituri said their conditioning in the summer had been much tougher. UK won games in the fourth quarter instead of having fourth quarter collapses.
Perhaps fans don't remember who recruited Andre Woodson and Jacob Tamme. During the transition of coaching staffs from Guy Morris to Rich Brooks, Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart got himself certified as a recruiter and was the lead recruiter on Woodson and told Tamme, who's scholarship offer had been rescinded by Guy Morriss, to be patient and he would help turn the situation around when the coaching situation was settled.
Though the Cats started 9 different starting offensive line combination during the season due to injury, the team experienced a much healthier year than 2005. The offensive line is an area of needed improvement for the Cats to make upward progression. The return of center Jorge Gonzalez, 6-foot-8 offensive tackle Zack Hennis, a possible return of high school phenom Micah Jones and the recruiting of some possible immediate help in junior college transfers that will be enrolled in the spring semester should bolster the o-line.
The versatility of quarterback/receiver Curtis Pulley, and in the event of a Keenan Burton exodus to the Pro's, coupled with the emergence of receiver Steve Johnson and red shirted freshman Terrance Jones and Pulley playing much more receiver, should keep the passing production at a high level.
It just maybe, that all of the so-called ghost's of losing football can be extinguished once and for all. And perhaps, the nay sayers can see things more clearly and get behind their team.