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COLUMN: Super Bowl a time to assess changes in UK football

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By John Herndon

I never thought I would see the day when the Super Bowl could have a major impact on recruiting at the University of Kentucky.

But, again, I never thought I would see a team playing for the Lombardi Trophy with three former Wildcats playing significant roles.

Unless your football fandom was frozen out over the last couple of weeks, you already knew that a pair of Bronco starting linebackers, Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan, suited up for the Wildcats. You also knew that Jacob Tamme, who caught a touchdown pass against the Patriots in the AFC title game, played his high school ball at Boyle County and went on to UK, where he starred for Rich Brooks.

And when they take the field Sunday, such exposure has to be a big plus for Mark Stoops and company.

Granted, Stoops did not coach any of those guys at UK. They all matriculated while Rich Brooks was running the show in Lexington. Tamme and Woodyard played their entire careers under Brooks while Trevathan was there for both Brooks and Joker Phillips.

But the fact remains that three former Kentucky Wildcats will be suiting up Sunday, more than any other school except Tennessee, which has four, if my hurried glance through the Broncos' and Seahawks rosters was correct.

While Stoops' inroads on the recruiting trail have created somewhat of a buzz about UK football, competition on the recruiting trail can easily point out that the Wildcats have not been to a major bowl game since Harry Truman was in the White House.

That was 1952, when Kentucky knocked off Texas Christian in the Cotton Bowl, which at the time was one of the four major bowl games. There have been 10 lesser bowl game appearances since then.

But can you imagine the power that Stoops can use when he finds a kid whose dream is to play on Sundays and says, “You can be part of something special at Kentucky and you can reach your dreams like those three did.”

Add to that the fact that Stoops can say, “I helped recruit many of those guys at Florida State who just won a national championship,” and you can see a roundabout way that UK could capitalize.

No, that doesn't erase the fact that Kentucky went 2-10 last year and other schools can point out that history shows that Kentucky has had more seasons with two or fewer wins (11) than bowl games since that Cotton Bowl appearance.

Of course today's kids seem to be rarely influenced by history, so that is where Stoops can use the here and now on kids that have not committed for this fall – see Elam, Matt – and kids in the future.

Whether it makes any difference or not might be impossible to gauge, but you know what somehow, the UK coaches will be finding a way to put a Big Blue spin on things.

 

**I am going with the Broncos Sunday by something along the line of 28-17.

 

**Big winner in the Bobby Petrino to Louisville story a few weeks back? It's got to be Western Kentucky. After Petrino's buyout, WKU is coming out 400 grand ahead. Plus, the Hilltoppers hired one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks, Jeff Brohm.

That does not mean the Hilltoppers will continue the upward turn they have enjoyed for several years, not is it a prediction that Louisville will flop under Petrino. The guy is an offensive genius and as long as he's there, the Cards will be very good.

But in dollars and cents as well as finding a bargain, it sure looks like Western Kentucky has come out smelling like a rose.

 

**Best news I heard during the cold weather snap had to have been that the Cincinnati Reds' pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb. 14. That just warms my heart.

 

Stay warm!