Avery Williamson estimated the biggest crowd he's ever played in front of was about 3,000 for the Tennessee Class 3A state finals.
The same goes for Mychal Bailey, who played at LaGrange (Ga.) High before spending two years at Southwest Mississippi Community College.
On Saturday afternoon, Williamson and Bailey will be among eight Wildcat rookies making their debut before what's expected to be a raucous crowd of about 56,000 at newly expanded Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Bailey will be in the starting lineup at free safety.
Williamson and Bailey are on just about every special teams units, so they'll likely be on the field for the opening kickoff. Williamson, who's also a third-team middle linebacker, said he knows he'll have to shake off some butterflies.
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"You just have to go out there and play," Williamson said. "But it's easier said than done. You're going to mess up sometimes. You just have to try not to focus on that and just play your game."
At least seven other members of UK's 2010 class are expected to play: defensive tackle Donte Rumph, defensive end Nermin Delic, tailback Raymond Sanders, cornerback Jerrell Priester, tight end Tyler Robinson, linebacker Jewell Ratliff and strong safety Josh Gibbs.
While UK will be playing a lot of rookies, many of the newcomers are older than your typical true freshmen. Bailey and Gibbs are two-year junior-college products, Rumph graduated from high school in 2008, and Ratliff sat out last season after originally signing with Louisiana-Lafayette in 2009.
"We've got some old freshmen," Coach Joker Phillips said. "Those guys are old enough to understand this. We've just got to prepare them mentally so they're relaxed and understand their assignments. We've got some mature guys. Raymond Sanders is probably one of the most mature guys we've ever had here as a freshman."
The spotlight will be on Bailey, one of the last lines of defense for the Wildcats in his first career start. Phillips believes Bailey is up to the task and is talented enough to make up for any mistakes he might make.
"The thing we want are guys who, if they make a mistake or blow an assignment, they're playing full speed," Phillips said. "He's one of the guys who can take three false steps and still make the play."
Bailey said he won't be affected by the environment at Papa John's.
"I can zone the crowd out," Bailey said. "All I'm focused on is making a big hit."
Expect to see the 'Wildcat'
Phillips said the team hasn't worked on the 'Wildcat' package with Randall Cobb much in fall camp, but look for the offense lined up in that formation at some point on Saturday.
"We don't spend a lot of time on it; we probably run about four or five plays a day, just to get it tuned up," Phillips said. "It's really a part of our normal offense. The only difference with the 'Wildcat' is that you have a guy in motion and Randall Cobb back there."
Phillips said he wouldn't hesitate to go to the 'Wildcat' early in the game.
"You want to show it early so you see how they're going to play it," Phillips said. "People play it different."
Louisville has four players from Lexington on its roster: Justin Burke (Lexington Catholic), Pete Nochta (Tates Creek), Roy Philon (Bryan Station) and Marcus Bentley (Henry Clay). UK has 15 players from Louisville on its roster: Ryan Tydlacka, Dave Ulinski, John Thomas, Luke McDermott, Nik Brazley, Matt Smith, Stephen Duff, Alex Dutton, Nathan Dutton, Jacob Lewellen, Nick Melillo, Max Gody, Spencer Holloway, David Noltemeyer and Ridge Wilson.
Recruits in the house
As always, the U of L-UK game will have huge ramifications on the recruiting trail.
The Cards have commitments from six in-state prospects: QB DaMarcus Smith (Seneca), DL Jamon Brown (Fern Creek), LB Jalen Harrington (Fern Creek), ATH Jerrell Moore (Fern Creek), WR DeVante Parker (Ballard) and kicker John Wallace (Central Hardin).
UK has five: TE Jon Davis (Eastern), WR Josh Forrest (Paducah Tilghman), DB Daylen Hall (St. Xavier), OL Darrian Miller (Bryan Station) and OL Zach West (Lexington Christian).
All of the above recruits are expected to be in attendance on Saturday.
Also expected to be at Papa John's is perhaps the state's top overall recruit, Boyle County linebacker Lamar Dawson. Dawson, a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and Scout.com, has offers from UK and U of L along with dozens of others including Florida, Southern Cal, Oregon and Michigan.
Game-day decision on kickoff
Former UK coach Rich Brooks was a firm believer in deferring when his team won the coin toss before the opening kickoff. Phillips said he's currently mulling over his philosophy on that same subject, but he sounded like he was leaning toward deferring.
"I'm not sure yet," Phillips said. "We'll talk it over. I've always been a 'defer' guy, too. We've got two really good kickers. We can play great defense, try and pin them back, get a three-and-out and give the offense a short field."