"I know we're a better team than we were at this stage last year. In my mind, I think we are clearly better than we were at this time last year. Having said that, we have to go out on the field and win games," Brooks said. "Offensively we're a team that virtually lost all of its production going into last season. This we return virtually 80% of it, probably. The experience that those players gained last year is making them better going into this season. We've added a few new pieces to the puzzle that I am anxious to see how they play out in practice," Brooks continued.
The Wildcats bring back several starters and key players from last year including all conference selections Trevard Lindley, Micah Johnson and Zipp Duncan. The Wildcats also return much maligned quarterback Mike Hartline.
Hartline believes the team's hard work this summer will pay dividends in camp and during the season. "These guys need to understand, and I think that they have, that practice and in the weight room is where it is going to happen," Hartline said. "By ourselves outside with seven-on-sevens is where it is going to happen. They have really responded and with the excitement and effort that we gave in the spring will hopefully carry over into camp."
The efforts and leadership that Hartline has provided this summer hasn't gone unnoticed from the UK head-man. "Mike Hartline is our guy and we'll see how that progresses and we'll see how other people, if they do, step up and challenge him or if they don't. But right now, in my mind, there is no question who our starting quarterback is for the Miami of Ohio game," Brooks said.
Kentucky opens the season with Miami of Ohio and follows that game with in-state rival Louisville. Then Kentucky hosts defending national champion Florida and Alabama. "The great thing about this schedule is that we have a lot of good home games and we don't have to travel too much, which is good. Of course, traveling in the SEC anywhere is difficult," said Hartline about the schedule. "You have to take it week-by-week and prepare well and work hard."
The media picked Kentucky at the bottom of the SEC East at SEC Media Days last month. That doesn't bother the Cats though. "We have to come out and surprise and shock the world, like we did a couple of seasons ago. We need to take Kentucky football to the next level, protect our home field," said receiver Randall Cobb.
Zipp Duncan echoed Cobb's comments. "We know what it takes to win and go to bowl games, so I'm excited to go out on the field. Hopefully we can go a little farther this season," said Duncan.
The Wildcats have come a long way since Brooks took over and still have a long way to go. But if this group's confidence is any indication, they will make it.
"Last year we had a mediocre mindset, but this year we are hungrier. We're hungry to get the victories people say we aren't supposed to get," Cobb said. "Going into the season, we had guys that believed we couldn't win certain games. Right now, everyone on the team believes we can win every single game. We have the talent, coaching staff, maturity and experience. Now, it's time for us to do our thing."
First Game: Saturday September 5th -- Miami (OH) in Cincinnati, OH - 12 pm Eastern ESPNU
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