DEMAREE: A long journey to the UK field

The three new running backs came from some distances to be a Wildcat, all from out of state. None of them have designs on a redshirt year. Yeah, some newcomers will say what is politically expedient, but a little truth serum would pry out the real thoughts. One newcomer will let you know that he has no intentions of being redshirted.

That newcomer feels like he has lost a year in the SEC life of football. That newcomer is Moncell Allen, who was uprooted from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Because of his physical statue of 5-foot-7, 225-pounds, Allen is affectionately known as the locomotive.

Another newcomer, Brandon Jackson arrived all the way across country from Eugene, Oregon. "It just happened," Jackson said. "Late in my recruiting, Joker (Phillips) came into the picture and convinced me to make an official visit. Once I arrived here, Christian Johnson and Johnny Williams recruited me. The main reason coming here was to get out of my situation (nothing bad). I wanted to get a new start."

Jackson hasn't been as vocal as Allen is about redshirting. The other running back, Derrick Locke from Hugo, Oklahoma, takes somewhat the same stance. How did Locke arrive at Kentucky from Oklahoma? "The track coach came to me and wanted to offer me a full scholarship," Locke said, "but I was about to take one of a couple of football offers in the Big Twelve. Then I told the track that you can talk to the football coach and they (UK) were the only school that offered football and track. So this is why I'm here. At first I didn't think I was going to like it but when I got here and started to make friends and practice, I didn't get homesick and it was just like back home."

Locke was a track star of a serious nature in high school. He said he ran the 100-meters but the long jump was his specialty. Locke long jumped 25.4 ¾ feet, which would have placed second in the SEC finals this year. He said he hasn't been timed in the forty since his sophomore year in high school and that was a 4.2-forty but it wasn't electronically timed. Joker Phillips said he doesn't know exactly how fast he is but he's as fast as anything they've had around here.

When you come into a situation such as UK's where there are a stable of tailbacks, as Joker Phillips said, the team is really going to be good if any of them can crack the lineup. Running backs coach Larry Brinson was asked how this group of tailbacks stack up with the running backs corps he coached or been associated with in the past? "I'd say they are right up there with the best," Brinson said. "I've coach some really good guys, guys that have played in the league. Barry Foster was an All-Pro running back. When you talk about a running back, each guy has a different thing he does extremely well. One thing about Rafael (Little), he's going to make that fist guy miss 90 percent of the time. And guys like (Tony) Dixon and Alfonso (Smith), they bring another dimension into the game, so as a group, they rank right up at the top."

As Zipp Duncan states, "Nobody wants to hear that when they are coming in," commenting on possibly red shirting. Having the big three as the top weapons, what chance do any of the youngsters have of seeing the field and are they destined for a redshirt season anyway? "Redshirting is overrated at times," Phillips said. "We have three excellent young backs, who have a lot of talent – Moncell, Brandon, and Derrick Locke, who is a track guy but he's definitely not out of place out here. We've got to find which ones can help us. It may not be on offense, but it may be on special teams where they can help us win some games. Where we might have non-scholarship players or players who may be a little less talented, that's where these guys can be starters. One year when I was at Notre Dame, we signed five backs and all of them played."

So perhaps we will see these backs who made the trek from far away straight-line distances, or even a round about distance as in the case of Allen, on the football field for Kentucky in 2007. If they do, the football team "may really be good."

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