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By LARRY VAUGHT
Both Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke have said freshmen Jerrell Priester and Raymond Sanders will be better players before they leave Kentucky than the two of them are now even though both Cobb and Locke are all-Southeastern Conference players.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is an honor to have great players like that making comments like that about us. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make too much out of it. You still have to work hard and do things to get to their level, but it is great to hear Locke and Cobb say things like that about us,Ã¢â‚¬Â Priester said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Me and Jerrell are close. We are good friends. I am grateful that they (Locke and Cobb) see that in us. We work hard after practice. We are with them all the time. I learn from Locke all the time, and that is high praise from him. I hope I can live up to that,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sanders said.
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips seems convinced they both can live up to the preseason hype.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Both of them have got really natural ability. Sanders, he reminds me a lot of Derrick Locke when he walked on campus, his leadership ability. He was the leader of Stephenson High School’s football team. He’s continued that here,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The first week he was there, Derrick Locke came up and said, I’ve never been around a smarter guy than this guy. He understands our checks, he understands our signals, he understands the tracks that the running backs have to make on each run, he understands the pass protection.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Then Priester, we think he has the same type of ability. The thing about him is he’s one of those guys that is not very big, but he’s very aggressive and he runs well. He has great vertical, which you have to have if you’re a small guy at the corner position. He got a lot of reps when some of our older corners were down. He’ll definitely play on Saturday. He’ll be an impact before this year is over also.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Priester would like to have the ball in his hands this year, too. He rushed for 1,300 yards and 16 scores last year. However, Phillips is going to resist the temptation to use him in Wildcat formation to run the football.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We want him to learn as much as he possibly can about the defensive side of the ball before we decide to give him some offensive side. He will be a backup returner in the kick return area. Then he or Mychal Bailey will be the backup punt returner,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I definitely think I can help on offense, but we have a lot of weapons, so I am not needed,Ã¢â‚¬Â Priester said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am needed more in the secondary. But any chance to get the ball in my hand, that is exciting because I know what I can do. But we have so many good players, especially Locke and Cobb. I will just wait my turn.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Priester has told Locke, who is considered UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fastest player, that he can outrun him. And he has been timed in 4.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Priester is very good and very fast. He is faster than I thought he was,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sanders said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is really a good corner. I like to see him move around, but at corner he is excelling and getting better and better every day. He is just a little faster than me, but not that much. We can run together.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jerrell is just an all-around athlete. He can do anything,Ã¢â‚¬Â UK starting cornerback Randall Burden said.
Priester says the same about Sanders, who admits he benefited from what Locke taught him during the summer.Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like a mentor. He is getting me through the plays and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not only helping me on the field, but the things to do in life and the work and how to stay on top of things and manage time. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good mentor. He has helped me out a lot. He wants me to do well,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sanders said.Ã¢â‚¬Å“It does feel like we are a lot alike. I can ask him anything and get a straight answer. He is more like a big brother, someone I can just ask questions about how things go. We are both straight forward and speak our minds. We are a good fit.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Perhaps thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why Sanders wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t overwhelmed going into preseason camp when he was no higher than fifth on the depth chart.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I know I am a freshman and the guys before me have paid their dues and know the system. Everyone was a star here. I have to work my way up to become a star here now. I know I can work my way up and learn. As I learn, I will excel,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sanders said.