LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky’s Rich Brooks has been named the 2009 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year as chosen by CollegeFootballNews.com.
Despite numerous obstacles, Brooks’ squad fought its way to a 7-5 record and will advance to a school-record fourth-consecutive bowl game when the Wildcats play Clemson on Dec. 27 in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.
Accomplishments during the 2009 season include:
• At least seven wins for the fourth-consecutive season, the first time that has been done at Kentucky in nearly a century, since 1909-12.
• Kentucky broke the school record for consecutive non-conference wins with 18 straight. It's the nation's second-longest current streak.
• Kentucky went 3-5 in the Southeastern Conference, tying for fourth place in the Eastern Division.
• It's interesting to note that Kentucky exceeded the expectation of every preseason prediction of the national magazines and Web sites we saw. UK finished tied for fourth in league play, but was projected fifth or sixth by all national predictors. (It’s also interesting to note that those predictions were made in the spring, before Jeremy Jarmon had been ruled ineligible by the NCAA.)
• Kentucky notched three SEC road wins – at Auburn, at Vanderbilt and at Georgia – for the first time in 32 years, since 1977.
• Kentucky defeated Auburn for the first time in 43 years, since 1966.
• Kentucky won at Georgia for the first time in 32 years, since 1977.
• Kentucky's 42-0 win over Miami (Ohio) was the Wildcats' first shutout in 13 years.
• Kentucky's win over Louisville was the third year in a row against the in-state rival.
• Three come-from-behind wins in the fourth quarter (Louisville, Auburn, Georgia), giving the Wildcats 12 such wins over the last four seasons.
Among the obstacles Brooks and the team had to overcome were:
• UK had a total of only 10 returning offensive and defensive starters from the 2008 season – the fewest number of returning starters of any team in the SEC.
• All-SEC defensive end Jeremy Jarmon was unexpectedly lost for the season after being declared ineligible by the NCAA.
• All-America cornerback Trevard Lindley was fully healthy for only three and one-half games, incurring a severe high-ankle sprain against Alabama on Oct. 3. Lindley missed the next four games and has played courageously at less than top speed since returning in November.
• Starting cornerback Paul Warford missed two games with an injury, forcing UK to play at South Carolina without either of its regular starting cornerbacks.
• Starting quarterback Mike Hartline sustained a knee injury at South Carolina on Oct. 10. Originally headed for a redshirt season, true freshman QB Morgan Newton came off the bench and started the last seven games. With the coaches juggling Newton, junior reserve Will Fidler and wide receiver Randall Cobb as a “Wildcat” formation quarterback, the Wildcats managed to post a 5-2 record in those seven games, including road wins against Auburn, Vanderbilt and Georgia.
• Cobb and tailback Derrick Locke, the top yardage producers for the UK offense and kick returns, each missed one game entirely and were limited in others because of various injuries.
Brooks also was recognized by CollegeFootballNews.com earlier this month when Pete Fiutak wrote, “Kentucky’s Rich Brooks deserves to be in the discussion of national coach of the year. His team was ravaged by injuries, he pieced together an offense around a No. 3 quarterback, and Kentucky still survived in the SEC East and is in the mix for a nice bowl game.”
Locke First-Team All-SEC by CFN: CollegeFootballNews.com also selected a first-team All-Southeastern Conference squad that included Derrick Locke as the kickoff returner.
Locke leads the SEC with 29.6 yards per kickoff return. He had a 100-yard touchdown runback vs. Louisville and set a single-game school record with 191 kickoff return yards in that contest. He’s also the first player in school history with two 100-yard returns, having also done it in 2008 vs. Western Kentucky.