UK Football

Aaron Boyd has older brother Shane to lean on

It was nearing the noon hour on Wednesday, and everybody had cleared the Nutter practice field except for two people.

You had Kentucky sophomore receiver Aaron Boyd running deep routes and catching balls on the JUGS machine.

And there was another familiar face out there tossing the downfield bombs to Boyd: his older brother Shane, the former UK quarterback who has taken an active role in Aaron's Wildcat career.

Boyd came to UK with high expectations. Not only was he a Henry Clay graduate and the younger brother of a former Wildcats starting quarterback, he was also Kentucky's highest-rated recruit of the 2008 class. And in a year when Kentucky was low on numbers at receiver, many had Boyd penciled into the starting lineup. Even Boyd himself felt that way. Upon signing with Kentucky, he told the Herald-Leader's Mike Fields, "Kentucky said I could catch 70 to 80 balls next year if I come in and work, and that's what I plan to do. I don't plan to sit on the bench."

Needless to say, things didn't quite work out that way for Boyd. He was stricken with mononucleosis in fall camp and fell behind. And when he did finally get on the field, he had a limited impact, catching just five balls for 46 yards.

It was a humbling experience for Boyd, but having his older brother around has helped. Shane Boyd played for four NFL teams before being cut by the Houston Texans last August. He's still hoping to get invited to camp but in the meantime plans on being a support system for Aaron.

"I hope it makes a big difference for him," Shane Boyd said. "I hope he realizes the tools and things he has around him and uses it to his advantage. If he buys into what I say, he might get mad, but it will help him achieve the goals he wants to achieve."

Like most big brothers, Shane Boyd can be pretty hard on Aaron.

"He's hard, but it's no different than when I was little," Aaron said. "It's nothing I can't handle. I'm just grateful to have a brother like him who's been through some of the same things and can push me."

And Shane noted that he makes sure to give Aaron plenty of pats on the back to go with the criticism.

"As much as I tear him down, I keep him motivated and build him up," Boyd said. "I'll be the first one to tell him if he's not doing what he needs to do. But I'm always going to tell him where he's improving so he'll know he's getting better. You can't just keep tearing people down because they'll stay down. You have to build them up, too."

Boyd admitted to being frustrated that he wasn't able to play a bigger role last fall.

"It was probably the low point of my life," he said. "Nobody likes to stand on the sidelines. I wanted to help my team, and because I couldn't really do it like I wanted to, it bothered me a little bit. I felt like I let myself down and team down."

Boyd said the coaches told him he wasn't playing because he wasn't giving full effort in practice.

"It was different from high school where I could just run any way I wanted to do and make a play," Boyd said. "Coach Brooks wants me to run fast and learn how to play fast every single play because this is the SEC and that's how you have to play."

Shane can relate to dealing with the pressures and ups-and-downs of being a hometown hero and said it's something that Aaron will just have to learn to deal with.

"That's always going to be there," Boyd said. "With him being my brother, and people feeling like they've grown up with us, watched us play and rooted us on, that pressure is there. Because they know what his capabilities are, the expectations are going to be there. He's just got to learn to not let them be a negative."

Aaron has toned down expectations for 2009. UK Coach Rich Brooks said that while Boyd has improved, he's currently not in the rotation. And Boyd himself has said he's even discussed the possibility of redshirting in the fall.

"Redshirting would help me to get stronger, faster, and learn the offense to a T," Boyd said. "I think it would be a great opportunity to make myself better."

Asked if he'd be able to stomach a second consecutive season on the sidelines, Boyd said, "I'd know I was sitting out for a reason, and that's to get better. Last year I was sitting out because I wasn't performing like the coaches wanted me to. Internally I would want to play, but I know it would be for a good cause."

Shane still believes that his younger brother will eventually be a standout at UK.

"Anybody who knows football can see his physique and see what he can do," he said. "Even NFL people I've talked to think he's got a chance to be a great player. But he has to do what he needs to do."

Spring Game info

Brooks announced that Saturday's Blue-White Game will be played with two separate teams, as it was last spring. The coaching staff will be split on Thursday, then have a draft and announce teams. The only requirement in the draft is that the coaches will make consecutive choices at the same position to keep the teams balanced. For example, if the Blue team makes a choice at tight end, then the White team must make a choice at tight end. Then, if the White team picks a weakside linebacker, the Blue team must choose a weakside linebacker.

■ Brooks noted wide receiver/quarterback Randall Cobb will be drafted as a wide receiver. Cobb will be allowed only occasional duty at QB to simulate the plan the coaches have for the 2009 season.

"We can use a little bit of the Wildcat, but he won't carry the ball more than four or five times in the scrimmage," Brooks said. "And he cannot play regular snaps at quarterback."

■ Last year's Blue-White Game turned out competitive, with the White team scoring the winning touchdown with 1:06 to play for a 23-22 victory.

■ The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium. Admission and parking are free. Stadium gates open at noon.

■ The game will be broadcast on the Big Blue Sports Network, including WLAP-AM 630 in Lexington. Concession stands and the Nike Team Shops will be open on the stadium concourse. Verizon Wireless will have an interactive area on the west concourse of the stadium, inside Gates 6 and 7.

■ Kentucky's SEC Academic Honor Roll players will be introduced before the game. UK had 31 players on the 2008 SEC Honor Roll, the second-highest mark in school history.

■ Fans may renew their season tickets from 12:30 p.m. to 2 outside Gate 4.