Kentucky-Tennessee notes: Do Cats have more tricks for Vols?

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 29, 2013 

Wildcats "quarterback" Matt Roark — a wide receiver who filled in due to injuries — got a lift off the field last year after UK defeated Tennessee to snap a 26-year losing streak against the Vols.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

When there's no bowl at stake, nothing to lose, does a team take a few extra chances with trick plays and gadgets and the like, hoping to pull out a victory?

Mark Stoops — who wasn't at Kentucky when the Cats needed a wide receiver playing quarterback to top Tennessee in 2011 — didn't promise any or all of the above, but he didn't rule anything out.

"I think there's always a good mixture," he said when asked about throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Vols on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium. "I mean, we always try to — I think you've seen some things that we've tried on special teams and offense and defense and all that. It's a big part of just learning how to play."

After Kentucky had a few bits of trickery go its way earlier this season, opponents have been on the lookout for it, but special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto said Stoops has been more than amenable to those types of plays.

"He likes things that are very calculated, well-planned, practiced," Peveto said this month. "If the opportunity is there, he's all for it. ... He's got a great eye for it."

When asked about that, Stoops laughed and admitted that Peveto has "talked me into a couple of them."

Despite being a self-proclaimed old-school football coach, Stoops has been comfortable with tricks, and looks for ways to use them before every game.

"You know, some of that stuff isn't as low-percentage as you might think," he told reporters recently. "So if we feel that something's there and there's a different percentage of converting it, then I'm all for it."

As for the offense using this opportunity to catch Tennessee off guard, Neal Brown didn't sound like a coach preparing to reinvent his offense and use a wide receiver at quarterback this week.

"We've thrown about all we've got," he said with a laugh.

A senior send-off

Sixteen Kentucky seniors will be sent off on Saturday before the game against Tennessee, including redshirt junior cornerback Eric Simmons, who is graduating on time and forgoing his senior season.

Stoops has not announced whether or not running back Raymond Sanders will be a part of the Senior Day festivities. He was suspended for this game after violating team rules.

The following seniors will be honored: tight end Jordan Aumiller, defensive tackle Mister Cobble, running back Jonathan George, defensive lineman Tristian Johnson, fullback Cody Jones, tight end Anthony Kendrick, tight end Patrick Ligon, kicker Joe Mansour, offensive lineman Kevin Mitchell, tight end Tyler Robinson, defensive tackle Donte Rumph, wide receiver Muhammad Saifullah, Simmons, safety Dakotah Tyler, linebacker Avery Williamson.

Win one for Williamson

There are plenty of seniors in this departing class that have had an impact on the program, but none that have seized it the way Williamson has, as a leader both on and off the field.

It's something said nearly every week by his coaches or his teammates.

Even the coordinator on the other side of the ball can't say enough about Williamson, third in the Southeastern Conference in total tackles with 96 and tackles per game (8.7). Five times this season he's led UK in tackles, including four games with double-digit tackles.

"I think there's no question, first of all, that Avery is the leader of the team," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said recently. "He's obviously the leader on defense, but also the leader on the entire team."

A win over the main team in his home state would be special for Williamson, who hasn't beaten an SEC team in 15 straight tries, dating to that surprise 2011 win over the Volunteers.

When asked about bragging rights back home, Williamson simply said: "I want it bad."

A victory over Tennessee is something Stoops would like UK to get for his senior leader.

"Avery is definitely a guy that you think about when you think about this group that has done an awful lot for this program," he said. "I'm going to miss him. It will be very important for us to help him get a victory in this last game."

More early enrollees possible

At Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium renovation news conference on Monday, there was plenty of talk about the program's future, including its more immediate future.

Stoops showed video highlights of the Cats' five mid-year enrollees: Drew Barker, Dorian Hendrix, Mikel Horton, T.V. Williams and Thaddeus Snodgrass, who all have signed scholarship papers to enroll at UK in January.

The head coach hinted later in the week that those five might have some company.

"There could be some more," he said. "We're only allowed to announce the mid-year guys that are high school guys, because the college guys that are gonna come in midyear, they sign a national letter of intent. So we could have some more high school guys or some more junior-college guys."

Earlier in the season, Stoops said there could be nine or 10 of those early enrollment players if UK graduated the players it expected to graduate.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241 Twitter: @jenheraldleader Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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