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UK’s Brooks is anxious to get going




LEXINGTON

Players often bemoan preseason workouts, and Kentucky coach Rich Brooks says he too is ready to face some live competition after a summer camp that has seemed much longer than normal.

“I’m anxious,” Brooks said. “I’m kind of frustrated. I’m kind of antsy. I’m kind of nervous. I want to go play, and I think a lot of our team is in the same mood.”

It’s not that it has been an offseason full of distractions. The only major one was the revelation that defensive end Jeremy Jarmon had tested positive for a banned substance and would have to forgo his senior year. Otherwise, the team has steered largely clear of major injuries or scandals.

Kentucky opens against Miami Ohio Saturday in Cincinnati, giving the Wildcats their first opportunity to play at the home of the Bengals.

“It’s going to bring out a whole new level of excitement,” defensive tackle Corey Peters said. “We feed off that excitement. It gives us energy.”

It will be Kentucky’s first game at an NFL stadium since the 2007 Music City Bowl in Nashville.

“I think our fans will enjoy having all seat backs on their seats,” Brooks joked. “For both teams, it’s an exciting venue to play in a professional stadium as a changeup.”

Perhaps the biggest adjustment Kentucky will face Saturday isn’t the venue but the prospect of facing a team with an all-new coaching staff and therefore little available game tape to analyze. Former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood now has his first head coaching job with the Redhawks.

“It’s going to be a little bit of a mystery, but we know if we go out and execute our game plan, no matter what, we’re going to be all right,” offensive tackle Zipp Duncan said.

Brooks agrees the Wildcats go into the game “a little blind” due to the coaching changes, but he see many areas of optimism on his team — most notably increased speed on both sides of the ball, an immensely deep crop of receivers and a year of progress from quarterback Mike Hartline, who had many peaks and valleys last year in his first season as the starter.

Kentucky is riding a programfirst three consecutive bowl victories, and part of that recent success is beating the teams it is supposed to beat. The Wildcats have won 14 consecutive nonconference games — most since a 17-game streak from 1954-60.

“We’re continually trying to raise our team to the level of the upper half of the (Southeastern Conference),” Brooks said. “When you do that, you should be able to play pretty well against the rest of the nonconference schedule.”

Kentucky and Miami have played 11 times, with nine of those in Lexington. The other two were in Oxford, with the schools splitting them.

Running back Alfonso Smith says he thinks this Kentucky team could surprise some people, particularly with the raves the passing game has generated during workouts.

Two years ago when Andre Woodson was quarterback, passing was the focus. Before that, it was running. This could be one of the Wildcats’ most balanced offensive attacks in years, Smith said.

“The defense is going to have to really guess on what we’re going to do instead of just load up the box for the run like they did last year,” he said. “Now that we can stretch the field, that’s going to really open up our play calling and our offense.”

Defensively, Kentucky returns several top playmakers, including linebacker Micah Johnson and cornerback Trevard Lindley. Lindley, considered to be one of the top cornerbacks in the country, says he believes this team has the talent to hush the doubters.

“They’ve pretty much said that the past three years,” Lindley said. “It’s just another year, a time to go out and prove them wrong.”


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