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By LARRY VAUGHT
While he knows what a challenge playing No. 1 Alabama, the winner of two straight national titles and three of the last four, Kentucky senior tight end Jordan Aumiller also has a different perspective on Saturday night’s game.
“I am really excited. We are all excited about the game,” said Aumiller. “But it is just a big opportunity for us as a team and for UK as a program. It’s an exciting opportunity for us because we have not played a No. 1 team. So instead of a challenge, we see an opportunity.
“Nothing is impossible. They don’t have any real weaknesses and we cannot afford to beat ourselves. But if we do our jobs, we have a chance to win. We have confidence. You have got to have confidence in any sport or you have no chance to win at all. We just have to take that confidence to the field and realize what an opportunity we have. The coaches know we are playing the No. 1 team and remind us we are playing the best team in the nation and that we have to be prepared for that.”
Aumiller knows about taking advantage of opportunities. After a stellar prep career at Boyle County, he redshirted at UK in 2009 before moving from linebacker to tight end for 2010. He played in all 13 games, including eight starts, and caught 18 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown to earn fourth-team freshman All-American honors. Southeastern Conference coaches named him to the league’s all-freshman team.
In 2011, he started against Western Kentucky in the opening game. That was his last start until this season. He did play in 10 games in 2011, but last year he played in only three.
Now he’s back playing full time and had three catches for 34 yards in last week’s 35-28 loss at South Carolina.
“We know we just have to compete and not make mistakes and do our jobs. Not just one guy, but everybody has to do their job at all times like we did late at South Carolina. Then stuff will work right and we can keep clicking,” Aumiller said. “I think last week helped us. We have come out to practice this week and worked super hard because it was good to see results of our work pay off. It just all boils down to doing your job and executing.”
Aumiller says it was “absolutely nice” to have balls thrown his way by quarterback Jalen Whitlow last week when Whitlow played the entire game rather than alternating with Maxwell Smith.
“When the ball comes to me, I am expected to catch it. When it is a running play, I am expected to do my job and block,” Aumiller said. “It’s just the way the game was going. It just happened to be me to get some balls. But it wasn’t because of us just playing one quarterback. If it is Jalen or Max, my job stays the same.
“I have felt our offense was getting better. We watch a lot of film and you could see it here and there, but there were always small things we did to hurt ourselves. Now we have started clicking. We just have to come out Saturday again and expect to win.”
Against Alabama’s defense?
“They are No. 1 for a reason and they did not have any lapses. We have game plan and we just have to execute it,” Aumiller said.
Aumiller appreciates the confidence tight ends coach Vince Marrow has shown in him considering for two years he heard that he was not physical enough to be on the field.
“I am just doing what coach Marrow and (offensive coordinator) coach (Neal) Brown ask me to do and that is to do my best. I try to go out and be physical and do my job and let the chips fall where they may,” Aumiller said. “What is in the past is in the pat. I know what I can do and not do. It’s all about believing in yourself and working hard. This year is my senior and I want to lead the program in the right direction.
“Coach Marrow really knows how to relate to players. He knows how to push and motivate us. He has high expectations for us. The last thing I want to do is disappoint him, coach Brown or coach (Mark) Stoops.”
Aumiller hopes UK fans turn out to support the team like they did against Louisville and Florida, UK’s last two home games.
“There’s nothing better than playing in front of a loud crowd the whole game and have them cheering and yelling for our defense. That makes a world of difference,” Aumiller said. “When we are on the road, I know how that impacts us.
“We are in the entertainment business and we want to please the fans and win games. The louder it is Saturday, the better for us.”