Wildcats looking to jumpstart next season

A day after their offensive coordinator resigned, Kentucky's football players were defending the rest of the Kentucky staff while attempting to maintain focus on a season-ending game with rival Tennessee.

Ron Hudson, the Wildcats‚ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, announced Monday that he has resigned, effective immediately, "because of the turmoil surrounding my future and the lack of production with the offense."

That decision put some of the Kentucky players on the defensive. They said they don't want to see other coaches, including head man Rich Brooks, fired despite a 2-8 overall record and 1-6 SEC mark.

"I don't want to see any more changes (in the coaching staff)," Kentucky linebacker Jon Sumrall said. "I have been through a couple of changes, and I like these coaches. They know how to win and they get the job done. Hopefully they will be around here as long as possible. They know what they are doing. It's not like they have been coaching for a couple of days. They have all been around successful programs and done successful things. It's not my decision, but I think we should give these coaches their time."

Sumrall left the impression that more changes might be in the works as school administration tries to reverse an ugly trend of losing seasons in Lexington.

"I know that there is stuff going on and there is speculation," Sumrall said. " never pay much attention to it because you never know what you hear and what you can believe. Just about every year they probably evaluate the situation. Of course there has been a lot of speculation this year, but I can't control any of that. That is for someone higher to worry about. I am going to just show up and keep playing along with the rest of the guys."

Kentucky center Matt McCutchan said he is simply trying to keep the Vols uppermost in his mind as Saturday's game draws near.

"I am just thinking about Tennessee," he said. "I know that all we can do is concentrate on that and get a win for our coaches."

Following a comeback win over Vanderbilt in its last outing, Kentucky might have a lot more enthusiasm among its players than if it had dropped a decision to the Commodores. Brooks believes the Wildcats will give a much better effort Saturday than might have been possible had they come in after a loss.

"I know they haven't packed it in yet," he said. "That was one of the most enthusiastic sidelines I have been on (in Vanderbilt game) in the fourth quarter. They believed that we were going to win."

A win over the Vols would provide a huge lift to the downtrodden Kentucky program. It could potentially be a springboard to improvement next season.

"It would mean a lot," Kentucky cornerback Earven Flowers said. "It would be great to be a part of the team that broke their streak over us. They have been drilling us for years, so it would be great to win it for this program. We need to bring a win back to Lexington."

Brooks agrees.

"It would be huge for the seniors to follow up on the fourth quarter comeback against Vanderbilt," he said. "I think it's significant that this team came back and battled when they could have folded the tent. The Tennessee game on the road is always tough. It's one of the toughest places to play. This would be huge to go out with two real good games at the end of the season. It would be huge for the returning players to help go forward with the program."

Of course, winning in Knoxville is never easy for Kentucky. Playing in Neyland Stadium is generally trouble for any opponent.

Flowers hopes the Wildcats, particularly the young players, can respond positively to the imposing Tennessee crowd.

"We were in a similar situation in Florida," he said. "They just need to block everything out and focus on their assignments on the field. Everything else will take care of itself."

A victory Saturday might also silence some of the criticism directed at the Kentucky coaches, perhaps saving some jobs.

"There is an intense interest and passion at Kentucky," Brooks said. "There is more negativity than I would have expected, but the conference is a great one and Kentucky's history in the conference hasn't been what Kentucky fans would like it to be. I'm just hopeful we'll go forward and start changing that history. This would be a huge step this week to do that."


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