Sunday, August 31, 2003

Wildcats defense has new attitude

Veteran line leads charge

By Murray Evans
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Kentucky's defensive linemen already have made a believer out of a quarterback who must face them every day in practice.

"I would put them up against anybody in the SEC, maybe the nation," Jared Lorenzen said. "They are unbelievable. They are so quick. They're so explosive. They get off the ball fast. They know when they can rush and they know when they have to stay in their gaps. They are really going to be unbelievable to watch this year."

Lorenzen is only echoing what new Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks has said since spring practice - that the defensive line, led by ends Jeremy Caudill and Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns, figures to be one of the team's strengths this season.

That would be good news for what has in recent years been a much-maligned defensive unit. Kentucky finished next-to-last in the Southeastern Conference in yards allowed last season (401.2) and surrendered an average of 25.1 points per game. Brooks hopes a new 3-4 defensive scheme, installed in the spring by defensive coordinator Mike Archer, will improve Kentucky's fortunes.

"I feel very good about our defensive ends," Brooks said. "Sweet Pea Burns and Jeremy Caudill are experienced players, and although what they're doing is a little bit different, there are similarities in some of our alignments to exactly what they did a year ago."

The 6-2, 264-pound Burns, who transferred to Kentucky from NCAA Division I-AA Northern Arizona after his freshman season, received second-team All-SEC honors last year after recording 65 tackles, 14 1-2 tackles for loss, three sacks and two fumble recoveries during Kentucky's 7-5 campaign.

Caudill, a 6-3, 295-pound senior, switched from tackle to end during spring practice. He's entering his third season as a starter and is coming off a year in which he had 39 tackles, two sacks and four pass breakups. He also blocked two kicks.

Caudill starred in Kentucky's 22-17 win last year over Louisville, consistently hurrying Louisville quarterback Dave Ragone and breaking up two passes.

Offensive tackle Antonio Hall, who squares off with Caudill regularly in practice, called Caudle "the best I've seen in my four years here. He's doing a great job with his hands, he's playing with leverage and he's able to shed blocks."

Caudill and Burns, who will start on either side of junior nose tackle Ellery Moore in this Sunday's season opener against Louisville, both have received pre-season recognition from various sources. Burns said they've tried not to focus on those laurels.

"You can't get caught up in that," Burns said. "You just have to go out and play your game, and that's what I try to do. You look at it as (the reward for) all the hard work you've done and you just try to go out and keep improving on your game.

"The thing that is important to me is going out and helping my team win. You don't have time to think about those (other) things. If you get caught up in those things, you fail. You've got to realize that your team is the one that got you there."

Burns said learning the 3-4 defensive scheme has been a challenge.

"Learning any new defense or any scheme is going to be hard at first, but I think we've improved a lot since the spring," he said. "With the 3-4, there's a lot more communicating. Everybody has to be on the same page. The (defensive) linemen have to make sure we're in our right gaps. Linebackers have to make sure they're in their gaps and the secondary has to read their keys. It's basically just communicating and knowing where each other is at all times."

UK vs. Louisville

Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. today, Commonwealth Stadium (67,606), Lexington.

Records (2002): UK (7-5), U of L (7-6).


Radio: WSAI-AM (1530).

Series: UK leads 10-5.

Line: UK by 5 1/2.

What to watch: This impassioned rivalry features the debuts of both teams' coaches: UK's Rich Brooks and U of L's Bobby Petrino.

UK Team stats U of L
347.4Offense avg.339.2
148.5Avg. by rush110.9
198.9Avg. by pass228.2
401.2Defense avg.317.6
174.3Avg. by rush114.2
226.9Avg. by pass203.4
32.1Avg. points for29.9
25.1Avg. pts. against23.4

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