The seniors that remain on the Kentucky Wildcat team have been through a lot of adversity, the losing of games, the probationary period, the threat of losing their head coach, and a constant swirl of negativity coming from various and sundry quarters.
But through it all the survivors are now reaping the benefit of their resolve.
The one thing that any team looks for is for seniors that are not so obvious, to step up and make their presence felt. Let's explore some of these contributors who have been previously faceless. They are also looked to for leadership that’s especially needed to help bring the heads of younger players out of the clouds after big wins such as Louisville and Arkansas.
The Wildcats went into spring practice desperately needing someone to fill the shoes of Matt McCutchan at the center position. Out of the blue came a welcome surprise package in the person of Eric Scott. Before now, the fifth-year senior to be was a journeyman who had never quite found a position home. He was a former tight end and defensive end who didn’t have quite the speed to handle those positions. Landing on the offensive line at center, though, he has exceptional feet and, if articulation is any gauge, has above average intelligence for the position.
Scott has been very solid at the position to date. Now he is being depended on for leadership. “We went into this game (Louisville) knowing we were going to win this game,” Scott said. “I think that going into the game, we had a mindset, this is something we can do. I remember last I talked to Michael Aitcheson before we played the Georgia game, and he looked me in my eyes and said, you know what, we are going to win this game.” Scott said he will do everything he can to get the Wildcat’s heads out of the clouds.
Another five-year senior, Dominic Lewis, has also been a journeyman searching for a position that fit him. Now he’s a starter at the defensive end position and is making an impact. He played in a JV game against Hargrave Military Academy in 2005 at a tailback position and looked like a runaway bull with 157 yards in twenty-one carries. After a year of grooming at defensive end, now he’s contributing like the fifth year senior the coaches had hoped.
Lewis explained his role as a senior guiding younger teammates after the big win against Louisville, and before facing Arkansas last night-- “On our off day, we always have little meetings and today I basically told the guys that Louisville, that’s over with. It might as well be last year. If we don’t get out minds right because they (Arkansas) are going to come in thinking they can beat us. We need to hold them under 17-points and keep Darren McFadden from have one of those crazy days.”
While the Cats did not quite hold Arkansas to under 17-points the defense did hold Arkansas to one offensive touchdown and two field goals--a 13-point production--and allowed the Cats to meet their goal. McFadden also ran for 170-plus yards, but was kept in check for much of the second half when Kentucky staged their comeback victory.
Last season Travis Day was asked to step up and fill the gap at LSU when all the defensive tackles were out because of injury. In addition to him being a defensive end trying to play tackle, he was not ready and failed miserably. This year he appears much more prepared for the rigors of life inside on the defensive line. “He has had his best fall since he’s been here,” said defensive line coach, Rick Petrie.
One of the most dependable guys in the secondary is another five-year player, starting strong safety Roger Williams. Williams is known as a big hitter and one of the best blitzers on the team. The Georgia native will always show up in the top tackler group on the team. But in a strange way, he rarely shows up independently as a highlight maker. Yet when you look at his numbers, he right there. Defensive backs coach David Lockwood said he can always depend on Williams to do the fundamental things well and rarely out of position to make the play.
These seniors--the previously faceless ones, the ones who may not get the highlight, but certainly get the credit within the team--are becoming more visible. Their leadership, actions and words cannot be underestimated. Kentucky is off to a 4-0 start with a 1-0 SEC record for the first time since the 1950's, and the seniors have a great deal of responsibility for that. So seniors, senior on!
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