Offense just as bad 2nd time around

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 18, 2008 

Even after all these years, when one side of the same football team goes against the other side in a scrimmage setting, judging with the naked eye isn't all that easy.

Over at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, the Kentucky defense “kicked the butts” of the Kentucky offense, in the blunt speak of Rich Brooks. And the head coach didn't back off that opinion yesterday.

What did you see on the video, someone asked?

“Pretty much what I saw (Saturday),” Brooks replied. “We were very fast on defense, looked like we were confident and knew what we were doing. On offense, we did not look the same way.”

So if the inexperienced offense is behind where the coaches hoped it might be two weeks before the bus ride to Louisville for the Sunday afternoon opener — and there are no ifs to that — might the experienced defense be even ahead of where projected?

“That's the hard part to judge,” replied Brooks. “Is our offense as bad as it looked? Or is our defense as good as it looked? I suspect from having done this for many years, the answer is somewhere in between.

“But I did feel our defense would be the best we've had, and so far I've seen nothing that I would back away from that statement on.”

Brooks also stated, however, that despite the losses of marquee players to graduation, the offense owned enough capable talent to get the job done.

So the alarming aspect from Saturday's rough report wasn't that Brooks found the performance lacking, but the degree to which he found it lacking.

There were too many mental mistakes. Too many dropped balls. Too many broken assignments. To Brooks' chagrin, there was also too much “giving in,” as he called it, to the bad tone of things, instead of fighting through and competing.

No doubt, Saturday's report and Sunday's confirmation send a chill through the nervous who fear that the substantial losses the offense suffered would be too much to overcome.

But Saturday wasn't all Mike Hartline's fault, Brooks said. The new quarterback is young, and his arm was fatigued from a fall camp of throw-throw-throw.

“He did a lot of good things,” said the coach. “And he didn't get a lot of help.”

And the Big Blue boss continues to remove his straw hat and scratch his head over an offensive line he thought would be maybe the strength of the entire unit.

“I'm not pleased with it,” Brooks said, “and I thought I was going to be very, very pleased with it.”

To be sure, aches and pains have been of no help. Backup center Jake Lanefski has a broken hand. Christian Johnson, first-team at right guard at the end of spring drills, remains out because of injuries and academic uncertainty. (Sophomore Brad Durham will now get a look at the right guard spot.) James Alexander, the team's third tackle, has been hurt. And Stuart Hines, backup at right guard, tweaked an ankle Saturday.

Yet, injuries aside, Brooks has frowned at what he's seen from the offensive line as far as execution.

“They've got to get up to speed,” he said.

To be fair, it's hard to judge when, on the other side of the line, the defense has been “bringing it, and bringing it on a daily basis.”

The good news is that Brooks is convinced the offense has the talent to succeed. He's seen enough to believe that. And it can be construed as good news that most of the errors Saturday were correctable errors.

“Yeah,” said Brooks, “but we're running out of time.”

Soon enough, the practice opinions end, and the real judging of the scoreboard starts.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or (800) 950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service