ELDRIDGE: Expectations Lifted

In recent memory, Kentucky has been a doormat in the Southeastern Conference. While one season of success doesn't make a tradition, it can definitely be the start of something special.

Last season, the Wildcats won eight games and fell to defeat only five times. One of those eight victories was a bowl win against a very talented Clemson team in the Music City Bowl. Kentucky also managed to defeat the University of Georgia for the first time in 10 years. When you toss in what looks to be one of the most talented rosters in Wildcat history, fan expectations have to be raised.

"We've got quite a few players among the best in the SEC," said Rich Brooks. "Andre (Woodson) had a phenomenal year. He was as good as any player at his position in the country," Brooks continued. "We've got better players (than in the past). Look at the pre-season All SEC teams."

Kentucky is represented by Andre Woodson, Keenan Burton, Jacob Tamme, Rafael Little, and Wesley Woodyard on the all conference team. Woodson and Tamme are both first team selections.

Woodson may be the most celebrated Wildcat since Tim Couch. His improvement from his sophomore to junior year is one of the major reasons that the Wildcats won their first bowl game since 1984. As a sophomore, Woodson had six interceptions, matching his six touchdowns for the season. As a junior, Woodson flourished. He threw 31 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. "It's maybe one of the biggest transitions from production, leadership, accountability that I've seen a young man make from one year to the next in my coaching career," said Brooks.

Another transition that Brooks has overseen is the difference in the confidence level and overall attitude present in his program. "It's a different standard," said safety Marcus McClinton. "To be as good as we were last year, we have to be better than we were last year," he continued. "We just need to use last year as a stepping stone."

The upperclassmen on the roster have experienced the struggles of being a poor team in the SEC. After experiencing a winning season this year, they recognize the difference between then and now. "When I got here, it was pretty bad," said Woodson. "They just went through the motions. Guys weren't competing," Woodson continued. "Now guys are giving it their all. People are staying hours after practice to keep working. There are even linemen watching film. I've never seen linemen watch film before."

The Wildcats got a taste of winning in 2006. "We'd been a doormat for so many years, and now, we want people and teams to know that we are a contender and want to be a contender year in and year out," said Woodson.

Last season, the Wildcats created their own theme song, "We Believe." McClinton performed the vocals in the song and like the lyrics, the Wildcats do believe in themselves and their teammates. "Everybody's confidence is up. We have proof of what we are capable of. We won a bowl," McClinton said. "We want to work hard to keep our success. We don't want to let it go."

"We've come a long way since I first came here as a freshman, from knowing where the program was going, to where we want it to go now," said Woodson. "This season, there's a chance to make a big statement about where our program is headed for the future."

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