Kentucky Football Looking For More in 2009

With all the talk about basketball lately I thought it would be a good idea to focus on the football team who starts spring practice on Wednesday

The Kentucky Wildcats have won three straight bowl games, defeated top notch programs in LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Clemson, and Florida State, but the 2009 version of the Wildcats want more.

Trevard Lindley, Micah Johnson, and Jermey Jarmon all spurned the NFL draft to return to Kentucky for their senior season and will help lead a defense that was key to the Cats successlast season.

For the Cats to have a successful season the offense must improve upon their 2008 output. Mike Hartline comes into the season as the starter, but will be pushed by newcomers Morgan Newton and RyanMossakowski . If the Cats want 8 or more wins the offense has to move the ball up the field better and keep the defense off the field more than they did in 2008.

The 2009 home schedule is a fans dream with Louisville, Florida, Alabama playing in Lexington three straight weeks and Tennessee closing out the home schedule. Those four games are sure to be some of the biggest games Commenwealth has ever seen.

There will be fur highlights to the home schedule for Kentucky football fans:
-The chance to see the Cats beatdown instate rival Louisville
-The chance to see what could be one of the greatest college teams ever in Florida and one of the greatest college players ever in Tim Tebow
-Alabama only comes to town every five years and very rarely do they come to Lexington and the Cats have a chance to win, but the Cats appear to have that chance this year.
-The chance to perhaps see UK end the dreadful 24 year losing streak to Tennessee.

If you take a look at the 2009 schedule for the Cats 5 games will make or break the season for Kentucky and if the Cats can win 2 or 3 of these games the Cats might be looking at playing on New Years Day for the first time in 11 years.

Now let’s take a look at those games.

Louisville – This is a game Kentucky must win if they want to improve upon 2008. Kentucky will have it’s only bye week of the season before this game and with far superior talent there is no reason UK should not win this game. Kentucky has won the past two meetings including last years 27-2 beatdown. Will the Cats be ready for the Cardinals or will they perhaps be looking forward to Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators coming to town the following week?

Alabama – Kentucky last year was a fumble away from beating the Crimson Tide on the road and with Alabama losing their starting quarterback, running back and best offensive lineman this could be a game that with a few good bounces Kentucky could win. Kentucky has only beaten Bama one time in 80 years could they perhaps pull the massive upset in Lexington once again?

South Carolina – Kentucky has never beaten a Steve Spurrier coached team and has not beaten South Carolina since 1999. Going into Columbia will not be an easy task, but eventually UK has to get the Spurrier monkey off their back, could this be the year?

Auburn – Kentucky has not beaten Auburn since 1966 and have not won on the Plains since 1961, but if ever there was a year for Kentucky it is 2009. Following a 5-7 campaign Auburn fired Tommy Tubberville and hired Gene Chizik. If Auburn’s offense struggles like it did in 2008 I really like the chances of Kentucky getting the win.

Tennessee – With a 24 year losing streak to the Vols this is the game that all of Kentucky wants more than any other game. Kentucky has had close calls including a triple overtime loss in 2007, but can never get over the hump. With the loud moth Lane Kiffin now at the helm there is nothing UK fans would love more than a season ending victory over the Vols.

This could be an excellent season for the Wildcats, but everything hangs on those five games. win two or three and you ring in 2010 in sunny florida, but win zero or only one and it could be Nashville or Memphis again which would not be bad, but this football team and their fans want more in 2009.

Basketball Fans Should Note Patience With Rich Brooks

On October 14th Kentucky lost to LSU 49-0 and all hell broke loose in Lexington, message boards, water coolers, and talk shows were all calling for his head saying that this old man did not know what he was doing and that he should be fired. Fast Forward to March 23rd 2009 and Lexington Kentucky could not be happier with the football program and the “old man.”

Since the debacle in Baton Rouge Kentucky has gone 20-12 including wins over the eventual national champion LSU, yea the same team that beat UK by 7 touchdowns just one year earlier. UK since then has defeated Georgia, Arkansas twice, Louisville twice, 2 Music City Bowl victories over Clemson and Florida State and a Liberty Bowl victory over East Carolina.

Rich Brooks has the football program in perhaps the best position that it has ever been as the 2009 version of the Cats could be a team that wins 9-10 games this year. The defense returns key players and the offense should be light years better than last year. Rich has also brought in a top 30 recruiting class including two quarterbacks that could have gone to any school in the country.

It is funny how things come full circle as now just two and a half years since the masses wanted Brooks gone those same fans are calling for Billy Gillispie’s head. Rich was in his 4th season when the heat started to turn up on him, but Billy has not even completed his second season yet, but still the majority of fans are calling for his head.

I understand that this is Kentucky and we are supposed to be fighting for NCAA championships and NIT titles, but that still does not change the fact that he not had enough time yet.

I continually hear from people that he does not know how to coach or that UK jumped the gun in hiring Billy, and to that I say that you could not be more wrong. Billy was one of the hottest if not the hottest coaching prospects available in 2007. He had completely turned around programs at Texas A&M and UTEP and had proven that he was an outstanding coach.

Should Billy have had this team in the tournament? The answer to that is without a doubt yes, but as we all know he didn’t and yes that is a major disappointment, but two years is not enough time for anyone. This is still the same exact coach that just one year ago was named the SEC Coach of the year, this man knows what he is doing.

We the fans need to trust in Mitch and his decision making abilities. I have heard countless times that Mitch should be fired and that he has no idea what he is doing, and to that all I can say is that you could not be further from the truth.

Since Mitch came to Lexington in 2002 the football, baseball, and women’s basketball programs have seen huge growth and all programs are in possibly their best shape ever. I know a lot of people around here just laugh when talking about other sports than basketball, but truth be told our athletic department is in as good as shape as it has been in the 21 years that I have been alive.

There are certain things that obviously bug all of us, like Bill’s irregular substitution’s or his inability to connect with the media or worst of all his ability to lose games that we have no business losing, games such as VMI, San Diego, Gardner Webb, and Georgia.

I also want fans to think about the repercussions that would follow if Billy was fired.

You have to believe that Patrick and Jodie would very much consider leaving Lexington for the riches of the NBA, especially if they were leaning towards the NBA than you can guarantee that this would be the final straw in their decision.

Potential recruits could spurn the Wildcats, 2010 Dominique Ferguson has already said his recruitment would open up if Billy was no longer the coach of the Wildcats. The 2009 class is an excellent one, but all would be able to look elsewhere if Gillispie is gone and you would have to believe that at least one of them would sign elsewhere.

I think it would be very hard to find a big name coach that would leave his top notch school to go to Kentucky knowing that if things do not go well that they too could be fired after just two years.

The impact of firing Billy could lead to a season very similar to the situation we have seen from Indiana this year, maybe not as bad, but next year could be very bad if Billy is gone.

On the other hand UK could be a potential top 15 team next year if everyone including Billy returns. Jodie and Patterson would be primed for another huge season. Darius Miller showed us this year that he will be a star for the Cats. A top 15 recruiting class coming in this year including a true center in Daniel Orton that will allow Patterson to move over and play his true position the power forward.

Next year can be very special or it could be a potential disaster and it all depends on Billy and his future.

I obviously understand that the football and basketball programs are held to a different standard, but I want people to look at what the football program has done. Mitch showed patience in keeping Rich and it was the best decision he could have made.

So next time you are calling for Billy’s head I want you to just stop and think about the football program.