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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown thinks having young players from winning programs has helped them withstand the rigors of UK’s 2-8 season going into Saturday night’s game at Georgia. However, he also knows guidance from veteran players has helped, too.
“They’re not necessarily beat down. But I think the best thing those other (older) guys have done is whatever happens, when they get to work on Monday, when they get to this building, it’s over with — whatever happened on Saturday — is over with and they’re focused on the next opponent,” said Brown. “And we talk about having a ‘next’ attitude all the time, whether it’s next play, next series, next game and I think those guys have done a good job of leading the way, teaching our younger guys.”
He cited several seniors for “showing guys how to persevere” this season.
“I think (tight end) Jordan Aumiller comes to my mind right away as a guy that’s come to work every day with the right mindset. (Lineman) Kevin Mitchell is a guy that really works hard every day and is playing through … he’s banged up, and he’s playing through a lot of injuries,” Brown said. “(Tight end) Tyler Robinson has a great attitude, somebody that’s really kind of really been hampered this year with a back injury, but he’s got a good demeanor every day.
“I think those type of guys, it shows our younger guys, ‘Regardless of what happens, you don’t lose the same game twice, so whatever happens on Saturday, you come to work on Monday and you get better.’ I think those guys have kind of led the way.”
He says there is no doubt that senior Avery Williamson is “the leader on the entire team.” However, he has seen younger players trying to be leaders on offense, too.
“You’re seeing some guys, like (Jordan) Swindle’s a guy that didn’t redshirt, but he’s taken a leadership role,” Brown said. “I think as they get older, Jojo (Kemp) and some of those other, Jeff Badet and Ryan (Timmons) and some of those other guys that are playing early in their career and kind of going through some down times, I think they can lead us, lead us to some better times.”
Brown is hoping players like Timmons, a receiver, and Kemp, a back, can learn to sustain explosive plays instead of occasionally making them as they have this season.
“There’s two types of explosive plays. There’s ones that I can create through a game plan and maybe schematically, and then there’s ones that the guys create by making people miss in space,” Browns said. “Those two guys both have the ability to do that, and I think those are the type that other people feed off of. If you can get into the secondary and make a safety miss, it gives us energy, it’s momentum on our side, plus it makes those guys second-guess themselves. So the next time they’re in that one-on-one situation, that safety’s a little less confident.
“There’s a bunch of things we track, and I think we talked about those earlier in the year: explosive plays and winning the turnover battle. If you can win the number of explosive plays, and you can win the turnover, all right? You’re going to win most of those games. I think we only lost one of those at (Texas) Tech in three years where we did both of those. We just need to have more.”
The good news for Brown and UK is that Georgia’s defense is on pace to set new program marks for most points allowed and most yards allowed. The 2009 team surrendered 337 points, which is a program high for a season of 12-plus games. This year’s team, which is surrendering 30.2 points per game, has already allowed 302 points with three games to play. The Bulldogs are also on pace to surrender 5,029 — potentially just the second time in school history that Georgia allowed 5,000-plus yards after last season’s team gave up 5,009 in 14 games.
Of course, Kentucky ranks 104th nationally with 349.2 yards of total offense per game. Georgia slipped to 82nd nationally in scoring defense (30.2 points per game) and 53rd in total defense (386.9 yards per game) by surrendering 43 points and 566 yards in last week’s loss to Auburn.