Kentucky Football Notebook: August 16
The Kentucky football team practiced for one and one-half hours Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon and also were scheduled for a one-hour, 15-minute workout Wednesday night.
One area that figures to be improved in the coming season is the Wildcat linebackers. Most fans are aware of senior outside linebacker Marlon McCree, who has earned some preseason All-Southeastern Conference mention, but the Wildcats have other standouts as well.
Juniors Chris Gayton and Ryan Murphy are expected to start at the outside and middle linebacker positions, respectively. Gayton inherits the post formerly held by departed All-SEC performer Jeff Snedegar. Gayton made six tackles a year ago. Murphy started most of the '99 season. He made 50 tackles, including nine for losses, and added a couple of pass breakups.
"Chris Gayton does an outstanding job. He's aggressive, covers (passes) well, and is one of the strongest and fastest players on the team," said Mike Major, UK defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. "We feel good about his potential to replace Jeff Snedegar.
"Ryan Murphy understands blocking schemes better than he did last year and is doing better on his pass drops," Major continued. "I feel very comfortable at outside linebacker. I think it is more of my natural position and plays more to my instincts," said Gayton, who came to UK as a defensive back but moved to linebacker last season. "I like to be a physical player and linebacker is closer to the action than the secondary."
Murphy believes his year of starting experience will benefit him greatly. "I'm more confident as a player and more confident in the system and my personal ability," he said. "I'm stronger and faster than a year ago. Now I know I can do it, instead of wondering if I can do it."
Asked about goals for the coming season, Murphy said, "I'd like to make more plays. Last year I just tried to do what I was supposed to do. Hopefully, I'll be able to go beyond my assignment and make more big plays - cause fumbles, get interceptions."
In addition to McCree, Gayton, and Murphy, Major is enthusiastic about the potential of the group - not just the starters, but the reserves as well.
"In the past, we've played only three or four guys, but I think we'll play at least seven this year," Major said. "We can play Morris Lane and Mike Beshara behind Gayton. Jamal White is pushing Murphy in the middle. He (White) gives us tremendous speed.
Ronnie Riley plays at McCree's spot. He's doing a good job, is very smart and very active.
"This is an unselfish bunch. They are very good teammates with each other - they're very competitive, yet if one of them sees something that will help one of the others, they'll talk about it."
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