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Adams pulling double duty at football, baseball

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4200970.jpegBrian Adams left the Wednesday's baseball game in the fifth inning with soreness in his knee. It was just precaution, baseball coach Gary Henderson told reporters, and after the game Adams was back in the cages taking cuts.

Maybe he just left the game to get a little breather. After all, Adams will have no time for rest over the next five weeks.

At the pre-spring football practice news conference Tuesday, football coach Joker Phillips announced that Adams would split his time between baseball and football during the five-week spring practice period while the baseball team journeys through Southeastern Conference play.

"We'll share him," Phillips said. "(The baseball team), as they compete for an SEC championship during the weekends, we'll allow Brian to play in those SEC series that are away. When it's home, he'll also play in them, but he'll also practice on mornings with us in football."

The "sharing" will be full time in both sports. Unlike a season ago when Adams was only a part-time contributor for baseball, he's now the starting center fielder, hitting .333 for a 14-8 baseball team. Football was the reason he came to Kentucky for, so that of course will also get his full attention, but there's also school, too.

"It's definitely going to be busy," Adams admitted. "It's going to be a busy schedule. We'll work it out though. Coach Phillips and Coach Henderson have been great and I appreciate the opportunity to play both sports at this level."

Adams will travel with the baseball team to Alabama this weekend, so he won't be pulling double duty over the next few days, but during the week and when the baseball team is at home, Adams will have a full plate.

Take for instance Wednesday. Adams had football practice from 9 to 11:15 a.m. After practice he grabbed some lunch and then high-tailed it over to Cliff Hagan Stadium for a full afternoon of baseball preparation against Canisius. First pitch was 7 p.m. because of a weather delay and the game ended around 10 p.m.

Thursday, he was on the road headed to Tuscaloosa, Ala., with the baseball team. He'll return late Sunday night, drop his glove and bat, and pick up his helmet and pads for football practice Monday. On Tuesday, he's got another baseball game, and then Wednesday it's back over to football.

"That just comes with the territory," Henderson said. "That's not any different than any other (two-way players) in the conference doing it. It's kind of standard."

But far from the normal workload for a typical student, who has a hard enough time just balancing 15 credit hours of school work. Throw baseball games and baseball practices on top of that, add the football responsibilities and hours of tutoring that he's required to take, and it can all become downright hectic.

The true test comes April 23 when Adams will try to play in the annual Blue/White Spring Game at 3 p.m. before a baseball game against Arkansas at Cliff Hagan Stadium at 7 p.m.

"I will be alright," Adams said. "I just need to take care of my body and the rest will take care of itself. It will be a lot of fun."

All this for a kid who could have lost his life almost two years ago when a blood clot in his arm nearly went undetected.

"God's been tremendous to allow me to be back out on the field," Adams said. "It's definitely His plan. Sometimes it's hard because you want to control everything yourself, but really it's been Him. He's been great and blessed me with so much. It's been a true blessing to play both in the SEC."

Adams isn't fazed by what lies ahead for him. He credits the people at UK's Center for Academic and Tutorial Services for planning a schedule that balances both sports and classes. He attends classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays in addition to two online courses.

The biggest concern for Adams is managing his legs. Blessed with freakishly good athleticism and speed (Adams has been known to leapfrog a standing 6-foot-9 pitcher Alex Meyer), without his legs, Adams said he's just ordinary.

"That's such a big part of my game in both football and baseball," Adams said. "If I don't have my legs, I'm not going to be effective. Taking care of my body is the biggest thing for me."

Adams is such a prized commodity with both teams that you wonder if either coach has any hesitancy about splitting his time. The junior-to-be, once drafted in the 45th round of the MLB Draft, is a rising star on the diamond, and he'll be counted on heavily next fall on the football field with the departures of Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews.

"You're concerned that he stays healthy and you're concerned that it doesn't leave him with zero energy, but he's a big, strong kid," Henderson said. "He's really smart. He's a high-energy person, a high-energy player. I suspect he's going to be fine."

3830131.jpegBefore a recent 0-for-11 slump, Adams was actually leading Henderson's club in hitting. He's a rangy outfielder with top-of-the-order speed. He's still very raw on the diamond, but his future is promising.

"He's got to continually work to play at a pitch at a time at the plate and not be worried about anything else other than seeing the ball and swinging at strikes," Henderson said. "He's like a lot of young guys. He gets excited and he jumps at balls occasionally. Those are the battles that you face and overcome when you're a freshman and sophomore in college."

Adams is listed second on the depth chart at one of the wide receiver positions at football. Gene McCaskill, who missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, is expected to be back in the fall, and veterans La'Rod King and Matt Roark will be favorites to win the top two spots.

Other than that, though, a lot of playing time is up in the air. Adams (three catches for 23 yards last season) figures to be - no needs to be, says wide receivers coach Tee Martin - in the mix.

"I'm looking for that guy that when we've got man-to-man, one-on-one, we say he's going to win every time for us," Martin said. "We had that in Randall, we had that in Chris and I think we have it in three or four more guys. At the end of the spring, I have a few questions that I want to have answered. One of those is La'Rod that guy. Is Matt that guy? Is E.J. (Fields) that guy? Is Brian that guy? We've got to find that out."

Adams' lone start a year ago, a fill-in start for the suspended Matthews at Mississippi State, didn't turn out as well as everyone hoped. He dropped a pair of balls and was relegated to the bench after the first quarter.

"It's hard to even watch the game," Adams said. "I did just terrible on the field. I didn't really do anything I wanted to do. It's kind of motivation to get things right and go from there. It drives me."

One guy who was even more disappointed was Martin, who had raved about Adams' potential throughout the fall. In hindsight, Martin said it may have been a blessing in disguise.

The way Martin sees it, Adams had the chance, as a first-year wide out (Adams missed his first season with the blood clot), to get thrown in the fire and see "some bullets fly across his head."

Said Martin: "What I told him was, 'On the baseball field, aren't you a leader? Aren't you one of the top guys? When you take the football field, be the same guy. Make those same kinds of plays for us.' His eyes kind of opened up. I was like, 'So that's what I had to say all along.' Now I think he understands what he means to us. Sometimes when you're not being called on, when there's a Chris and a Randall in front of you and there's a La'Rod and a Matt in front of you and you don't have to be called on, then you're not forced to get better. Now he knows he's going to get the reps, so he's paying more attention and coming through and making plays."

After practice Wednesday, having just completed his first spring practice and with a baseball game later that evening, Adams decided to stay on the turf at Nutter Field House while the rest of his teammates left. Cobb was there about to workout. Adams thought it would be the perfect opportunity to pick his brain and get a few extra reps in.

It isn't like he doesn't have the time. There will be a time for rest for Adams in some other life.

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