Cats are confident

Coming off a 2-9 season in 2004, the Kentucky Wildcats were not a confident bunch heading into 2005. Coming off a 3-8 season in 2005, they were not a confident bunch heading into 2006, either.

Coming off an 8-5 record in 2006 capped by a Music City Bowl defeat of Clemson, however, the Big Blue can't wait for the 2007 season to arrive.

"We have a lot of momentum after winning that bowl game," senior quarterback Andre Woodson said at the recent SEC Media Days. "The guys have become very competitive. They're excited to get out there and compete. Our work ethic has changed tremendously. The guys are watching film. It's a great experience, a great feeling."

Now that the Wildcats have tasted success, they intend to feast on it this fall.

"The guys expect a lot more now," Woodson said. "They're not going to expect 8-5 no more. We want to win more. We want to do more. We want to accomplish more. Obviously, that's saying a lot."

Facing Kentucky used to be the next-best thing to an open date. Now it's a difficult assignment. Georgia learned that last season, losing 24-20 in Lexington. Tennessee nearly got a dose of the same medicine a few weeks later, eking out a 17-12 triumph in Knoxville.

"We're no longer the average Kentucky that used to be here," Woodson said. "It's a special feeling to know we're starting to be respected a lot more. Teams are actually paying attention to us and trying to prepare for us."

Therein lies the rub. Now that opponents respect Kentucky, the Wildcats won't be slipping up on anyone in 2007. That makes the task of matching their 2006 achievements a little more difficult.

Head coach Rich Brooks noted that opponents "are going to look as us a little differently (so) to even have the same results (8-5) we have to do everything a little better.... If we want to have better results, we have to do it a LOT better."

Woodson wants no part of such cautionary comments. He's convinced the Cats are ready to build on last fall's success.

"We're very thrilled about everything that's going on," he said. "The community has embraced us. People are excited. We have 50,000 season tickets sold this year. We probably had about 15,000 last year. We're very thrilled about everything that's going on and we're ready to go out here and have a good season."

Safety Marcus McClinton echoed those sentiments.

"As a team we know we have something," he said. "We have the attention of our fans. We have success at the University of Kentucky and we don't want to lose it. The mindset is to work hard and do whatever it takes to continue to have success at the University of Kentucky.

"Last year we had the mindset of becoming successful, turning the program around and trying to grasp what we have now. Now that we have it, we don't want to let it go. We want to get a tighter hold on it."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories