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By ASHLEY SCOBY
“Wait until Coach X’s recruiting class comes in” is the typical response to a poor season once a new coach takes over a program. That is certainly the case already for coach Mark Stoops and company, as fans are looking forward to the entrance of Stoops’ highly-ranked 2014 recruiting class. After a 35-26 Cats loss to Western Kentucky Saturday night in Bobby Petrino’s debut, that sentiment is even more popular as fans are chomping at the bit for a quality football season in the bluegrass.
Even with the loss – and the small selection of boos and fan discontent as Stoops chose to kick a field goal late in the game instead of going for it on 4th and 4 – several bright spots appeared. Kentucky fans might not even have to wait on the 2014 class to come to Lexington in order to see successful younger players.
Blake McClain saw perhaps the most action out of this year’s freshman class. He has been noted for weeks by the coaching staff as a guy who could be a big part of the defense’s nickel packages. Kory Brown was hurt for at least part of the game last, so McClain was given plenty of opportunity to produce in his place.
McClain finished with seven tackles (four solo) and a forced fumble.
“It was definitely faster,” McClain said of the difference between high school football and his first college game. “Things moved faster than high school and people are bigger, stronger. Other than that, it’s just football. I’ve been playing football since I was 6. As the season goes on, I’ll just get used to it and play my game.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Ryan Timmons showed a flash of his high-ceiling athletic potential: He took a handoff and scampered 33 yards. But, he couldn’t hold onto the ball, and recorded his first college fumble.
“When they needed somebody to make a play, my number was called,” he said. “I tried to do a little extra more to help my team make a play. It was my fault. We work on ball security every day in practice so it was my fault when I tried to get the extra yards.”
Timmons finished with only two touches (his 33-yard rush and a reception for 6 yards), but showed Kentucky fans the kind of athletic ability he brings to the table, even as a freshman. Even besides his big run (pre-fumble), Timmons thought he was able to accomplish some of the “little things” as well.
“I think I gave good energy,” he said. “When I was in there I think I made some good blocks on some good drives. But I messed up on that one fumble in a critical situation.”
Timmons and McClain both reiterated the fact that they would go into practice Monday with the intention of fixing what went wrong. The workhorse mentality that is dominant in both those guys is representative of the team’s mentality, even after losing to an in-state rival for the second year in a row.
The season is young – “It’s just one game. We’ve got 11 more,” McClain said – but the scattered boos throughout LP Field show that not all Kentucky fans are happy with the time it will take to complete “the process” Stoops constantly stresses.
Waiting on that 2014 class will only do so much for fans’ contentment. For now, they’ll have to settle with members of the 2013 freshmen, such as McClain and Timmons, who have already shown they have the potential to produce in Division-I football.