UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 12 years and nine years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography
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It's possible that four of the five freshmen that played for the Kentucky men's basketball team last season will be leaving in hopes of fulfilling a dream to play in the NBA. That no doubt causes much consternation in the Big Blue nation but it's not like John Calipari set out to recruit players that he would lose after one season. As a coach, you get the best players you can and go from there.
We all knew John Wall was almost certainly going to play only one season for the Wildcats. But that was the only sure thing. Yes, Demarcus Cousins was highly rated, but few observers thought he would dominante -- and mature -- the way he did at Kentucky in one season. And nobody was talking about Eric Bledsoe or Daniel Orton as one-and-done type players.
Had UK's season fizzled out after a fast start -- like Texas' did -- you wouldn't be seeing this kind of shakeup for the roster. But when you win at the level Kentucky did, everybody looks better individually than they might on a team that struggled.
I'm sure coach Cal wants to build a deeper core of veteran players to carry over from one season to the next. But while he's getting to that point with his program, I'm guessing fans will still get a lot of enjoyment from another team or two having to rely heavily on freshmen wins like this one did.
Linebacker Danny Trevathan figures to play a more prominent role in Kentucky's defensive plans this coming football season and the junior from Florida is excited about some tweaking that defensive coordinator Steve Brown is doing with the approach.
"We're doing a lot more nickel and we're also running a 3-4, in certain situations," Trevathan said. "Our base defense is still the same. Last year, we were more slow-paced, read the offense and this year, we're more attacking.
"(It's) more chances for the defensive lineman to go out and attack. (We) won't be blitzing more but more effectively. That's the whole defense's mindset, attacking more this year."
Trevathan knows his coaches are counting heavily on him for next season.
"(Linebacker) coach (Chuck Smith) said everyone year he's had an All-SEC linebacker and I'm trying to step up and be the next one," Trevathan said.
How does he go about doing that?
"(It's) a mentality you gotta have. Sam (Maxwell) and Micah (Johnson) had it and they did a good job of teaching me," Trevathan said. "I think I'm achieving it."
New offensive line coach Mike Summers has inherited just one returning starter (Stuart Hines) but he does also have a couple of guys with a good bit of game action under their belts in Larry Warford and Brad Durham. Still, Summers knows that's a long way from the veteran group Kentucky took into last season.
"Probably the worst word you can hear for an offensive line is inexperience," Summers said. "Playing side-by-side and building cohesiveness between those guys is something we're trying to do. That's a pretty steep mountain we're trying to climb and every day we chip away at that."
The offensive system isn't going to change much since head coach Joker Phillips was overseeing that side of the ball already, but for the guys under Summers tutelage, it is a big change.
"I'm pretty sure everything has changed for them," Summers said. "How I call blocks, how we teach blocks, how we practice. That kind of slows some of our development right now, in this transition period. And we're trying to build the respect between my coaching style (and them) and over time, our relationship will strengthen."
Chandler Burden has been moved from defensive end to left tackle and Summers said Burden brings a lot to the table.
"(He) probably possesses more speed and strength than anyone else that we've got up there," Summers said. "He has a mental toughness that adds to that group. I think just his passion to be a great player is something that spreads (to the other players)."
Much is required of the center in the offensive line in terms of calling out assignments and having to handle some large and strong SEC opponents. Summers said UK is a long way from where it needs to be at that position right now, where three very inexperienced players -- Marcus Davis, Matt Smith and redshirt freshman Samuel Simpson -- are battling it out.
"I think it's a slow development," Summers said. "That position is going to have to be a whole lot better. We've got a long way to go before we feel good about that position. You would like to have a dominant player at center and we don't have that yet. The better comprehension they have of the offense will add to (their) confidence. And trying to be a more physically dominant player. We haven't seen that yet."