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By LARRY VAUGHT
HOOVER, Ala. — Former Kentucky All-American quarterback Tim Couch — the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns — says he’s excited to be starting his third year at FOX Sports South as an analyst on “SEC Gridiron LIVE,” a weekly show that begins Aug. 29 at 10 p.m. for 15 weeks. The show is all about Southeastern Conference football and goes out to more than 30 million cable and satellite households on FSN throughout the Southeast.
Couch, who also works as a game analyst for FOX Sports, still holds the NCAA record for completion percentage in a game and for completions per game as well as several records with the Browns. He was at the SEC Football Media Days attended by over 1,100 media members to talk to coaches and players about the upcoming season and offered these observations on his career at UK football:
Question: What changes are in store for SEC Gridiron LIVE on FOX Sports South this year as you start your third year as a Southeastern Conference analyst?
Couch: “We have a lot of changes. James Bates, a former linebacker at Florida, joins us this year. Desmond Purnell is going to be our host. Elizabeth Moreau is going to be our social media reporter. It is a whole new crew and whole new dynamic, but I think it will be a pretty good show. I am excited.”
Question: Have you liked this type of work more than you ever imagined?
Couch: “I do. It has been a little bit of a surprise me figuring out just how much preparation time goes into something like this. Just getting ready to having yourself mentally prepared to know these coaches, the players, the schemes. That was a surprise, but I enjoy it and it keeps me around the game and keeps me informed about the conference I played in and dearly love. It is a lot of fun for me to do this.”
Question: Since Kentucky football fans seem disappointed with last year’s 5-7 finish, do you think that pessimism will carry over to a lower fan turnout at games or will the UK fans continue to turn out to support the team on game day?
Couch: “I hope they show. One of the big deciding factors on that will be how exciting the team is. It won’t necessarily be wins and losses. Just from my experience growing up and going to games, I think it depends more on the product that is out on the field. I think if they are putting up points and are an exciting brand of football, I think fans will still show up and watch. The last year or so has been tough on the fans. They have got really down on the team. They are looking for some excitement this year and it is going to be a tough road with the schedule and young guys on the team at key positions. We will see how it goes. Obviously, I am pulling for them. I still bleed blue. I hope it works out for them, but it is a tough road in the SEC right now.”
Question: Does Kentucky have to do something differently in the SEC, especially on offense, to compete annually?
Couch: “I think you have to because you don’t have the same type of athletes that those other schools have. If you try to line up and play them one on one, head to head I don’t think it will be a very good outcome for you. I think the biggest reason we had success at Kentucky was because it was so hard to prepare for us in a week. Back then the SEC was very much a running conference. It still is, but was very much then. Florida was the only team spreading it out and throwing the ball much. We came in and changed with five wide receivers and teams had a hard time preparing for us and I think we really stole a couple of victories because they had not seen anything like our offense.”
Question: When a team is exciting offensively, how much does that help recruiting?
Couch: “It absolutely helps recruiting. When you look at the skilled positions — running backs, receivers, quarterbacks — they want to play in that system because they think it can get them to the next level. If you get a kid like (Highlands freshman quarterback) Patrick Towles in there with so much hype and potential, those receivers want to play with that guy, especially in a passing offense. They believe if they are on the field with him, he can get them to the next level. That’s what I want to see out of the program just a little more. Let’s open it up. Let’s get these skilled guys in here. We had guys like Craig Yeast and Kio Stanford when I was playing. Andre Woodson had Stevie Johnson, Keenan Burton. Fans enjoyed watching that style of football and that is what it is going to take to get us to the next level.”
Next: More with Couch on Patrick Towles.