Brooks: Commonwealth won't intimidate WKU
Just because Western Kentucky is in its final transition season for the Football Bowl Subdivision, Coach Rich Brooks does not want his Kentucky players to overlook or underestimate the Hilltoppers.
Brooks has been stressing to his team this week that Western is a program that has something to prove and will be looking for a signature win.
"I don't think they'll have any problem coming in here," Brooks said of the Toppers (2-2). "They've played over the last several years in some big-time stadiums with a lot of noise and a lot of animosity. ... I don't think this will be overwhelming to them in any way, shape or form."
Western junior running back Tyrell Hayden, a former Lexington Christian star, echoed that sentiment this week.
"It would be a really good game to get some momentum for myself and for our team," Hayden said. "It would be a great opportunity to show what we're all about."
WKU has 42 players from Kentucky, including three from Lexington in Hayden, fullback Rod Johnson and wide receiver Clark Jeter. Hayden and Wildcat Andre Henderson both attended LCA. Johnson and Jeter attended Henry Clay with Wildcat Aaron Boyd.
"This gives all of us a little more motivation because we've all got family and friends there from around the state," he said. "This is going to be a fun experience for everybody."
Hayden's 'slow start'
Tyrell Hayden, the former standout at Lexington Christian, led the Toppers in rushing last year with 1,134 yards on 205 carries for 10 touchdowns.
This season, he has 131 yards on 42 carries with one touchdown. Western's overall ground game has been similarly stagnant, managing only 117.2 rushing yards a game.
Hayden expects those numbers to improve.
"It's just a slow start," he said. "Right now, we've made improvements and some changes, which could help me."
Injuries on defense have led to some serious reshuffling this week for Kentucky, including moving Braxton Kelley back to a familiar place.
Kelley will go from his current outside linebacker position back to middle linebacker to sub for Micah Johnson, who is out with a high ankle sprain. It's a position Kelley is comfortable with, since he had 29 starts over the past three seasons there. Junior Mike Schwindel is expected to play in Kelley's place on the weak side.
Ricky Lumpkin's absence (also because of an ankle sprain) will most likely mean more snaps for starters Corey Peters and Myron Pryor. It also could mean more playing time for sophomores Shane McCord and Josh Minton. Minton returned to practice this week after being sidelined by arthroscopic knee surgery.
Brooks said the shuffling is a concern, but he didn't overemphasize it.
"You're never the same as you were if you have all of your starters healthy," he said. "It hurts us a little bit. It certainly hurts us at depth if we get anyone else dinged. But overall, I think we'll be fine."
A heartbeat away?
The recent ankle injury to backup quarterback Randall Cobb has cast new light on the Cats' new second-string QB Will Fidler, who has to be ready to step in if something were to happen to starter Mike Hartline.
Brooks was asked this week how he feels about the sophomore and whether Fidler is ready to step in at a moment's notice.
"It doesn't make any difference what I feel, we'll just have to wait and see what happens if he's put in that situation," he said.
When Fidler was asked what it's like for him to be one heartbeat away from being UK's quarterback, he said: "It's better than being two heartbeats away from being Kentucky's starting quarterback."
Have the extra snaps the past two weeks helped prepare Fidler? "Any time you get a rep and do well, you build a little more confidence, and that confidence comes with just being comfortable on the field and getting more done," he said.
Hall of Fame game
At halftime of Saturday's game, the latest inductees into the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame will be introduced to the Commonwealth Stadium crowd. The 2008 class includes football player Al Bruno, men's basketball player Tony Delk, track athlete Tim Harden, former men's basketball player and athletics director C.M. Newton and men's golfer Johnny Owens.