By LARRY VAUGHT
Standout Georgia running back Raymond Sanders says if Rich Brooks does retire, it wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change his commitment to the University of Kentucky. The same goes for Tennessee linebacker Avery Williamson and SandersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ teammate, Ronnie Shields.
Sanders also says that Stephenson High School teammates Jabari Johnson, a linebacker, and Ronnie Shields, a tight end, remain solid in their commitments to Kentucky no matter what happens.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Actually I heard today about coach Brooks maybe retiring,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sanders said Tuesday. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We were just talking about it. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s understandable that he might want to do this. But Joker (Philips) is a good coach. Coach Brooks taught him a lot. He is lot like him, but is a younger, more exciting coach.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are all still good with Kentucky. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know it would happen as soon as this has with coach Brooks, but I had a feeling it would happen. With Bobby Bowden leaving (Florida State), I thought it might be soon with coach Brooks, but not this soon.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“However, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t impact me going to Kentucky. Kentucky is a great school academically and has a great football program. I am excited to be going there to play football and also get my education and my teammates all feel the same way. We are all still definitely coming to Kentucky.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Shields said BrooksÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ potential retirement Ã¢â‚¬Å“doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change anythingÃ¢â‚¬Â for him because he was aware there was a possibility it could happen.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am still going to play for the University of Kentucky,Ã¢â‚¬Â Shields said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I knew it would eventually happen, but I am a little surprised it was so soon. I thought it might happen next year or maybe even during the offseason. But I was not expecting it now.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know anything about who the new coach and his assistants would be, it would be harder to stick with Kentucky. But since I was told about this and was aware of the possibility, everything is fine. Coach Randy Sanders recruited me. I have met Joker, and I am fine with all those guys.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Tennessee linebacker Avery Williamson watched KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s loss to Clemson Sunday night in the Music City Bowl but didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t watch any postgame reports to learn that UK coach Rich Brooks said he was 80 percent sure he was going to retire.
Instead, he got that news when his Milan, Tenn., coach sent him a text message Monday morning with the news.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was shocked actually. I thought he would stay around a few more years,Ã¢â‚¬Â Williamson said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I know coach Joker (Phillips) is a real good coach. I still feel comfortable with him and his system. I feel Kentucky will still be successful. He was already a big part of the team and the offense. It will be the same thing even without coach Brooks if he is going to give it up.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Williamson said BrooksÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ decision had not Ã¢â‚¬Å“been a big dealÃ¢â‚¬Â in his area and that he had not put that much thought into it, either.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know who would be the coach if coach Brooks does leave, it would be a bigger deal,Ã¢â‚¬Â Williamson said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I met coach Joker a few times and he is a nice man. I felt comfortable with him. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not like a stranger is taking over. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about me de-committing.Ã¢â‚¬Â