Monday Press Conference Coverage
Oct. 12, 2009
Cats Travel to Auburn for Second Straight SEC Road Game
Kentucky goes on the road for its second consecutive conference game when it travels to Auburn Saturday. Both teams are looking to get back on the winning track after dropping last week’s games. The Wildcats are coming off a heartbreaking 28-26 loss at South Carolina while the Tigers return home after falling at Arkansas 44-23.
Saturday marks UK’s first meeting with Auburn since 2005. The Tigers carry a 15-game win streak in the series and have won 10 consecutive games on their home turf vs. the Cats.
Against South Carolina, the UK offense scored five times on six opportunities from the red zone and posted 360 yards of total offense, the most allowed by USC this season. Sophomore all-purpose threat Randall Cobb recorded 229 total yards and scored two touchdowns - one through the air and one on the ground. Tailback Derrick Locke carried the ball a career-high 24 times for 89 yards and a score. Locke now ranks 25th on the all-time UK rushing list with 1,157 career yards.
Senior tackle Corey Peters led the Wildcat defense, posting seven tackles and a career-high 2.5 quarterback sacks. He was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for that performance. Linebacker Sam Maxwell also made seven stops against the Gamecocks and charted his third career interception.
Head Coach Rich Brooks
"We'll start off on the injury front like I normally do. Micah Johnson's ankle is still swollen but it's getting better. He still has the hip flexor with which he missed a couple of days of practice for last week. It's not a major problem. Also we have (Jorge) Gonzalez with an ankle (problem). He should be able to go Wednesday if not on Tuesday. The good news/bad news scenario on Mike Hartline is that there is no ACL involvement, there is a complete tear of the MCL off the femur, there is a slight tear of the PCL and there is a small cartilage (issue). The manner of treatment is non-surgical for the MCL. That's a three-to-four week proposition to have that tacked down on its own. Then the question is when that happens is the cartilage going to allow him to play and it can be taken care of at the end of the season? Or will the cartilage prevent him from playing? The PCL should heal at the same time the MCL heals. The question maybe somebody would ask is `Why don't they fix the cartilage now and then allow the MCL to tack down?' (The answer is) because the trauma to the joint prevents the MCL from healing. The protocol from the doctors is to let the MCL heal and then basically wait and see if he can play with the slight cartilage tear or not. If he can't then they would remove the cartilage, which would be another two-three week proposition. So possibly he could play before the end of the season, possibly he could not. So it's very much up in the air. But that's great news there's no major surgery on the ACL. That's a very, very good thing.
"The bottom line is that does not change our plan going forward into this week. We will work Morgan Newton; we will work Will Fidler. We'll determine at a later date who will take the majority of the snaps in the game. We will also bring up (Ryan) Mossakowski and work with him a little bit. He won't get a lot of reps but he will get some. He would be the emergency third quarterback. We will expand slightly the Wildcat package. Randall Cobb will remain at receiver and he will continue to operate in the Wildcat package, whether it will be more or less than we did the other night remains to be seen. I think we're a much better offensive team moving forward by trying to maintain the integrity of our offense with the addition of the Wildcat package giving a little bit different looks. Now we'll just have to have someone go in and execute the offense at the normal quarterback position. Questions?"
Can you talk about what Fidler and Newton have to improve to get the starting role?
"I'm looking for decision-making, play-making and the understanding of how importantthe football is to their team - that we cannot give it to the other team. Willbeing in the system and being in the offense should be far ahead. I'm not surethat is the case in this whole process. That's what we're going to find out thisweek. Morgan's been getting a lot of reps and should be a whole lot better preparednow than he was a month ago or six weeks ago. So we just have determine in practicethe best we can who is the most prepared and then make a decision going forwardobviously. Knowing that games are a lot different picture than they see in practice,we'll try to simulate it the best we can and see how their decision-making andexecution plays out this week."
How difficult is the quarterback choice with Hartline's return questionable?
"It really makes no difference. It makes no difference. I mean it's really applesand oranges - he may be back or he may not be back. So you have to go to theworst case scenario that he won't be back. We have seven games left in our season.We still have a chance to do something that hasn't been done around here in along time and we need to go for that goal."
Will you have to cut back your offensive scheme with the new quarterback?
"I think we'll have to cut back a little bit no matter if it's Fidler or Newtonon some of the pass reads and some of the offense. We'll also have to find outwhat they're most comfortable doing. What we would like to do and what they'recomfortable doing - it's going to be a combination of those two things."
How much extra responsibility will there now be on the offensive line and how much confidence do you have in them?
"The offensive line has to function. They're at the bottom of the hill. You know that old saying about stuff that rolls down hill? They are kind of the unsung heroes in my mind of our team this year. One, because we've played three ranked teams and lost but in all of those games we've had more production offensively against those three teams than any other team has had so far this year. And a major part of that success is because of what the offensive line has done. Having said that, the pressure will become greater and it will be more difficult to run the football if we don't throw it as well as we have thrown it. And I know a lot of people don't think we've thrown it very well but I think we've throw it well enough to keep defenses honest. If we don't throw it that well then the running game yardage is going to start drying up."
So is there a percentage chance you could put on Hartline playing at the end of the season?
"You know there is a percentage chance on everything in life I guess. But I guessI'm not smart enough to figure it out. I can't know when phantom double snapsand holding calls are going to be called or not called or when a quarterback'sgoing to get hurt. So I'll guess I'll leave the percentage to you guys who knowa lot more than I do (smiling). "
Do you still feel like this is a pretty good football team?
"We were without three starters in the South Carolina game. We were without astarter and a half in the Alabama game. Before the game was over at South Carolinewe were without four starters. When you don't have your starting quarterbackand starting two corners it makes a major impact on your football team. I don'tcare who you are. You can be Florida or Alabama but if they lose their startingquarterback and their starting corners they're a little bit different team. Havingsaid that, we're not that far from where we'd like to be if we had everybodyhealthy. But the good news is we're a lot further ahead of where we used to begiven the fact that we didn't have those four starters. We were still in thegame with an opportunity to win on the road in South Carolina. Three or fouryears ago that would have been a disaster."
Will the new quarterback impact your ability to make audibles?
"It does clearly and that's one of the areas where they are not nearly as goodas Mike Hartline was - Hartline understood the offense, he understood defensesto get us in and out of plays, he understood protection. When you make a mistakein protections, bad things can happen to you. The Heisman Trophy winner madea bad check on protection in our game and he got knocked out of the game. Thoseare things that can happen. You need to make sure, especially when you are young,that you understand what's happening on that side of the ball so you can executesomething on your side of the ball. That's a major change between high schooland college. That's a major change between the college and the NFL. Decisionshave to be made very quickly. That's an area where these two quarterbacks haveto prove themselves. "
Last week you said you liked how Hartline handled himself in the first half, what did you mean by that and how does that translate into what you need to see from the new starter?
"Hartline did not make any bad decisions in the first 30 minutes. He threw accurately on almost every pass thrown. We had a couple drops. He brought us back. We scored on our first possession, it could have been a touchdown but it was dropped. We got a field goal. They took the lead. We came back and retook the lead. They came back and took the lead and then we came back and retook the lead. So he responded and was playing an outstanding football game on the road which is not easy to do in this league. The play before he was hurt, he scrambled out and had Chris Matthews open down the sideline, threw it perfectly and Chris had his hands on it and didn't come down with it. You can say he dropped it or the guy slapped it out at the end. But those are plays we need to make. In all probability if that play is made there's not the other play where he's over on the sideline."
Can you talk about your cornerback play and any changes that will be made this week?
"Yeah, we'll try to make a play at the end of the play and look at the ball whenwe're in decent shape. Randall Burden got beat on the first touchdown when hewas in excellent shape and he really basically turned the wrong way instead ofcoming up into the man and going up when he made a play on the ball and lookingback and trying to deflect the pass. (Martavius) Neloms got turned around. I'mencouraged by both of those guys. They have, particularly Neloms as a true freshman,a short memory. I think he is going to be a really good player but that's a toughway to learn."
Do you have a timetable on when to expect Trevard Lindley back in the lineup?
"You know it looks like a minimum three-to-four week deal on the high ankle sprain.The swelling is down. He is still unable to get up on his toes on the one legwith that ankle. It's week to week. Maybe Wednesday it will be day-to-day on(Paul) Warford. We'll try him again on Wednesday to see how his quad is responding.I'm not optimistic about him at this point until I see it two days in a row thathe can get through something without having any setbacks. Trevard, I think weare looking not only this game but probably the next game. Hopefully we havea shot of getting him back."
When a corner does not look back at the ball properly is that an egregious mistake?
"Well, you teach them to look back when the receiver is going to make the play and then you have to look back in the proper direction and go up with the hand, whichever hand you are going to use on it, and go up through his hands and up through him. That's the final part of the puzzle when you play with confidence on deep balls. Randall (Burden) has done that on occasion and he was in position to do it and really basically just turned the wrong way on that first one. And Neloms really I don't think has ever faced a situation like he faced (last week) and I think he'll learn pretty rapidly from it. "
With the play of Corey Peters and Taylor Wyndham last week do you see signs of that the defensive line is starting to come around?
"I said early on that our end position was going to be a work in progress. Wewill start Taylor Wyndham this week at the left end. We will go with DeQuin (Evans)at right end and move (Collins) Ukwu and Chandler Burden around a little bit.But all of those guys are starting to come along and make some plays. I thinkCorey Peters has been one of the most underrated players we've had on our defensiveline for a long time. He just kind of took it upon himself to try to do a lotof things and he did some really good things in that game. I think moving forwardhe is going to get a little bit more attention with double teams on the insidewhich also could help our ends on the outside."
Why is Corey (Peters) so good?
"He's a lunch-pail player, he is very intelligent. He makes very few mistakes,although he admitted he made one on that long draw play. He jumped into the wronggap on the draw play that set up their go-ahead touchdown. He has explosion,he has good hands and is very seldom ever off his feet."
Did Alfonzo Smith not get into the game at tailback because of his thumb injury?
"Yes, we were reluctant to put him in because of ball security problems - catchingthe ball and the things that backs do. He did play in the kicking game."
Is leaving Randall Cobb at wide receiver influenced by what happened to him when he played last year at quarterback?
"It is influenced quite a bit, cause our pass offense was pretty much non-existentwhen we did that. To try to utilize his abilities you have to revamp, you haveto kind of run Wildcat the whole game. Once you do that, you get a little bitmore one-dimensional and it's a little easier to defend than as a thing you throwat people every once in a while. The other thing is, he understands, I think,that his future is not as a quarterback if he wants to make it to the next level.He's got an absolute legitimate chance to be an outstanding receiver and returnman at the next level. I want to do the right thing by him, but I also want todo the right thing with what we feel is the type of offense that we have to beable to execute in this league to win. I don't want to throw that away at thispoint."
Lones (Seiber) looks like is kicking the ball as well as he has in his career, can you talk about that?
"How about that? There's another guy that's been pretty beat up. He has madefive in a row. He missed his first one I think and then has made five in a row.He's made two career longs (49 yarders) in that stretch. I think he's performingvery well at this point and knock on wood it stays that way."
Can you talk about what you expect from Auburn this week?
"Unlike the last three teams that we've played, except Florida was real highon offense too, you look at their stats and the previous teams we've played particularlyAlabama and Florida were all up there at one-two defensively. If you look atthe stats and Auburn is up there in offensive stats - in all of them. They areplaying a very up-tempo offense, a very difficult offense to get reads on becausethey give you a lot of false keys with pulling linemen and throwing the balland pulling the linemen and running, spreading the field, a lot of differentlooks. I think these backs are as good as any backs that we have faced this year.These Auburn backs are very dangerous. They're physical and fast. (QuarterbackChris) Todd is doing a good job of executing the offense. He is a hard guy tosack because he gets rid of the ball. Sometimes they don't block anybody, theypull a lineman and turn somebody loose and he throws it and completes it a lotof the time or throws it away. Pressure on the quarterback is important but Idon't think we're going to get a lot of sacks on him this week because he doesn'ttake a lot of sacks. They're a scary team because they do a lot of things offensivelyand defensively they still have the same talent they have had and what Arkansasdid to them last week to me was very remarkable based on how the two teams hadbeen playing going into that game."
#70, Stuart Hines, OG, So.
What is the situation with Mike Hartline?
"I'm sure he's pretty down right now, but we can only hope for the best. We needto do our best to keep him up in spirits. It was an unfortunate situation. Weneed to talk to him, keep him up and I know he'll stay involved with the team.I know Mike, and I know he'll encourage and help anyone who ends up with thespot."
How does the offense look?
"After the past couple of games we feel like the run is a strength for the offense.We need to keep plugging away at that, and we need to keep protecting the quarterback.Hopefully we'll catch a break one of these games and win."
How do you feel about the game against Auburn?
"It's going to be a tough and hostile environment, and they will be upset aboutgetting beat last week. They have one of the best offenses in the SEC and theyhave an SEC-caliber defense. It will be a tough game."
#78 Christian Johnson, OG, Sr.
On Mike Hartline and how he was playing ...
"Mike is a great quarterback. What is disappointing to most people is that hewas really starting to play good. He was starting to take off as a quarterbackand his development was really getting good. He was playing his butt off andwas doing that even before the South Carolina game. It hurts, but the train mustgo on. He will still be aboard, but we have other quarterbacks ready to stepup and will step up."
On how you develop confidence in a quarterback that isn't proven ...
"I have been thinking about this. We threw Will Fidler in there and I know thatwe have some packages where Randall Cobb will play and he has proven himselfthere. But to be honest, I feel that Will has all the potential in the worldalso. He threw for, what 7,000 or 8,000 yards in high school? So obviously hehas an arm. Our job is to protect him and we are going to do that just like wehave been doing. I feel that we will be able to protect them no matter who thequarterback is."
On Morgan Newton ...
"I think that Morgan is a great quarterback. Obviously, he is young and has alittle more developing to do but I think that he has shown signs that he willbe a promising quarterback. I do not doubt him at all. To be honest, I am interestedin seeing who the quarterback will be at the end of the week. We just have towait and see. It is a strange feeling. It is almost like going into a boxingmatch and you don't know who your opponent is going to be."
#53 Ricky Lumpkin, DT, Sr.
On how difficult it is for the quarterback, who is the leader of the team, to go down with a serious injury ...
"It is difficult. At the same time, I think that Will came in and did a greatjob. I don't know what is going to happen from here on out because I am on theother side of the ball but I am going to have faith, no matter who the quarterbackis, that the job will get done. I am excited to see what will happen this week.It will be different not to see No. 5 back there. Someone is going to have tostep up and I think that they will do it and be ready."
On Taylor Wyndham's overall development ...
"I love Taylor. I think that he is going to be really good. It is crazy becausehe knows everything that is going on. If you talk to him, he doesn't talk reallyloud but kind of whispers. He is just really quiet. I like that about him becausehe is not flamboyant. He just goes out there and gets the job done. Even afterthe fumble he caused I said, `Taylor how did you do that?' He said, `You knowI just went in there and tried to strip the ball and get it back in bounds.'He wasn't all excited or like talking about how he meant to do that. He justexplained everything he did. I think that we will see a lot more good plays comingfrom him this year."