Abney poses big threat

The early forecast for Saturday's Tennessee-Kentucky football game at Commonwealth Stadium calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s, yet the Vols will be watching out for Lightning.

Derek ''White Lightning'' Abney is the most dangerous punt/kickoff return man in college football. He broke or tied five NCAA records and nine SEC records last season, and recently added to his impressive resume' with an 80-yard scoring punt return against Mississippi State.

Abney now shares the NCAA career record for touchdown returns with 8, joining Cliff Branch (Colorado), Johnny Rodgers (Nebraska) and Wes Welker (Texas Tech). In last Saturday's game with Georgia, he set new SEC records for kickoff return yards with 2,313 and total return yards -- kickoff and punt combined -- with 3,312.

Abney also is a quality receiver. He ranks second in UK history in receiving yards (2,339). With three catches Saturday, he will become only the second Big Blue player ever -- Craig Yeast was the first -- to make 200 career receptions. Abney already burned Tennessee once in his career, making 10 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown in 2001, the last time the Vols ventured into Lexington.

In short, Abney may be Kentucky's best hope for an upset victory against the Big Orange, which is an early 10-point favorite.

''Derek Abney is a receiver who would start for anybody in this conference,'' UT head man Phillip Fulmer said. ''He's a heck of a football player as a go-to guy. And he's a guy in the kicking game who forces you to have a plan and work that plan very efficiently to keep him from turning a game around.

''You can play great defense and great defense and great defense, then you punt the ball and, all of a sudden, the score is tied. He's really, really a special player.''


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