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Image 9 of The Cats' Pause, April 29, 1989

Part of The Cats' Pause

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(oats/ Claiborne giving QB Maggard option' to succeed Sophomore-to-be battling for starting job No one questioned Freddie Maggard's athletic ability when he left Cumberland High School. He was a terrific option quarterback and threw the baseball well enough that the Kansas City Royals drafted Larry Vaught Cats' Pause Columnist him. Maggard turned down the Royals' offer to sign a football pact with the University of Kentucky. However, he spent 1987 as a redshirt defensive back and heard the many whispers that he wasn't good enough to be a major college quarterback. "I was not a true drop-back passer and I had played a lot of defense in high school," said Maggard, who earned all-state honors as a defensive safety. "I was just a different style quarterback than what people were used to at Kentucky. But I never doubted I could play quarterback." His patience, and ability, have been rewarded. The 6-2, 227-pound Maggard, who will be a sophomore in the fall, is now challenging senior-to-be Chuck Broughton for the starting quarterback job. "Chuck is a senior and deserves the First shot at the job," said Maggard. "But I do want to start, too." UK coaches moved Maggard back to quarterback after the 1987 season. Last year an injury slowed him and he ran the ball only three times. Still, coach Jerry Claiborne and his staff like Maggard's aggressive play and running so well that the option, Maggard's high school speciality, is being put into the Kentucky offense for the first time under Claiborne. Maggard insists the offense isn't being changed to suit his game. "The offense is not being designed for me," said Maggard. "We have other quarterbacks that run the option, too. It is just a coincidence the option is being put in now." It's no coincidence, though, that Maggard loves the option. He's put on almost 25 pounds since coming to UK and is not afraid to hit or be hit by defenders. When he found out during the winter UK was going to install the option it made him work even harder in the weight room. The result—he's stronger than ever. "I was really excited when I found out we were going to use the option," said Maggard. "I enjoy running the football. That's really the best part of my game. I don't mind tucking the ball up and running. "The option has always been my speciality. I've run that since my junior high days. It's real comfortable for me. "I can't just drop back and throw the ball 60 yards. I like to run and scramble. That's how I best use the ability I do have. The option lets me do what I do best." Still, Maggard has never run the option against defenses like the ones Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and other UK foes will present. "He's going to be a on a level this fall he's never seen before," said UK defense end Tony Massey, a former standout prep quarterback at Somerset. "Freddie has ability. I played against him in high school and he was a terrific player. But when he cuts the ball up here he won't be the biggest, fastest guy on the field. The defenses will be bigger and faster. "He's going to have to think more. He won't run over or around guys in the SEC." Don't think Massey doubts Maggard's ability or in- After suffering through two injuries and being switched from offense to defense and back to offense, sophomore-to-be Freddie Maggard is challenging senior quarterback Chuck Broughton for the signal-calling job. tangible leadership qualities. "Freddie's running will give us a new dimension we need on offense," said Massey. "He's always been a winner and he's the kind of guy that finds a way to make big plays." The option does provide big plays. If Maggard or another UK quarterback can get the ball to speedy tailbacks Alfred Rawls or Al Baker outside, the Wildcats could have more big-play potential. However, the option can also be dangerous. The quarterback has to make a split-second decision whether to hand off to the fullback, keep the pigskin or pitch it to the tailback. A mistake results in a loss of yardage or a fumble. Claiborne normally prefers a low-risk offense that doesn't turn the ball over. Going to the option is a change in philosophy Maggard thinks will pay off. "We probably will have some turnovers but we will also get some big plays we didn't get last year," said the former Cumberland standout. "We have people to make big plays. "We ran drills all spring to get used to running the option. It gets monotonous but we had to make sure we could handle the football." Maggard used his redshirt year to make sure he could handle football and school. He watched, waited and learned on the gridiron and made sure his schoolwork was in order. Not playing, however, did bother him. He wasn't used to practicing and not playing. "If anything it made me hungrier," said Maggard, who figured to play more in 1988 until he was injured. It might have helped if he could have played baseball. However, that's an "option" Claiborne doesn't give his signees. But the UK coach is giving Maggard the "option" he needs to succeed on the football field and right now that's all that matters to the sophomore quarterback. ?FOOTBALL SHOULD BE fun. That's the message coach Claiborne tried to get across to his Wildcats during spring drills. "Our team has to play with enthusiasm, intensity and excitement for us to win," said Claiborne. "We have got to have more fun playing. "Football is supposed to be fun. We've got to have fun in practice and learn to give an all-out effort every play. When we get in the habit of doing that then we will win the close ones." If they do that, the Wildcats will have more fun during the 1989 season. Of course, a schedule featuring Auburn, Indiana. North Carolina, Alabama. LSU. Georgia, Rutgers, Florida and Tennessee won't produce a lot of laughs. "Last year our schedule was rated toughest in the nation but next year's is even tougher," said Massey. "Not many teams will play a more difficult schedule than us." Still, even Claiborne is optimistic about the 1989 campaign. That's what returning seven offensive and seven defensive starters off last year's 5-6 team does for any coach. "We can line up with the group we have back and a few that are coming along and have a very good first unit," said Claiborne, who is 35-41 in seven years at Kentucky. "Our problem again is that we are thin everywhere. Depth again is going to be our biggest problem." More speed would help, too. Tailbacks Rawls and Baker have the speed to make big plays but the Wildcats lacked a receiver last year who could stretch defenses. Claiborne hopes several incoming freshmen can provide the needed speed at wide receiver. "The big thing we were missing last year was outside speed," said the UK coach. "It's easier for a wide receiver with great speed to participate as a freshman than it is for a lineman or other position players. That's why any freshman that can run and catch will get a good look in the fall. We need speed." Some things just never seem to change at Kentucky. SINCE LUTE OLSON took the "loot" and stayed at Arizona, UK put its search for a new basketball coach on hold. This week, though, the effort starts again now that Kentucky has met with the NCAA Infractions Committee. The results of the NCAA investigation still are not known but last week two UK officials had surprising predictions about the probe. One speculates that UK may not be hit with a ban on television games. "The NCAA has to give UK something for cooperating," said the official. "After all, the athletic director and the entire basketball staff is gone. If you aren't rewarded for cooperating, why cooperate?" Another official speculated Chris Mills would be back next year despite the infamous $1,000 Emery package. The same source predicted the only Wildcat who would transfer would be Sean Sutton.