The offense is in pretty good shape, despite the quarterback problem, with slashing 6-foot, 200-pound sophomore I. M. Hipp at fullback and I-Back Rick Berns (972 yards, 11 TDs). Back-ups at fullback are Keith Steward and Dodie Donnell, while the depth chart for I-backs includes Junior Byron Stewart, who had a 5.9 yards-per-carry average in 1976 and 5'7", 175-pound sophmore Tim Wurth. Ken Spaeth, a 6'5", 230-pound tight end who caught 19 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns last season, is also back.
Osborne put the Huskers in perspective recently when he said, "We have a lot more holes to fill than we've had in a long time, but I think we've got some talent in all areas. It's not like we're destitute."
After a couple of decades of indifferent football, the Wildcats signed Fran Curci as head coach in 1973, erected 58,000-seat Commonwealth Stadium and in 1976 were 7-4 and beat North Carolina 21-0 in the Peach Bowl. (The last time Kentucky had been invited to a postseason game was in 1951, when Bear Bryant was the coach.) The return to respectability became more or less official when the NCAA, which doesn't usually bother with the transgressions of the inept, hit the school with a year's probation for recruiting violations.
The sharp slap on the carpus means no bowl and no TV appearances, and Kentucky's loss is the viewing audience's loss: the Wildcats will be very good, perhaps very, very good. Only one player is gone from a defense that had three shutouts in the final four games of last year. It is headed by 6'7", 247-pound End Art Still and Linebacker Jim Kovach, and figures to be one of the best in the nation. As LSU Coach Charlie McClendon told Curci, "Art Still cuts the field in half. Wherever you put him, we're going the other way." But Curci is concerned about Still. "He has put a ring in his left ear. I don't know if that will hurt him."
The only question on offense is whether an inexperienced line (All-America Tackle Warren Bryant is gone; only two starters return) can get out of the way of Quarterback Derrick Ramsey and Fullback Rod Stewart, a couple of battering rams. Kentucky calls its attack the veer, but Ramsey and Stewart seldom do.
At 6'5" and 222 pounds Ramsey is hardly a typical quarterback—not fast, and as a passer, not greatly feared. "His strength is his strength," says Curci. "He's not speedy, but he's faster than he gets credit for, and when he turns the end and gets into the secondary, it's hard for those little defensive backs to bring him down." Reinforcing his coach's updated opinion ( Curci had alternated Ramsey at end and quarterback during a lackluster sophomore season) were the 17 TDs Ramsey ran and threw for in 1976.
When the Wildcats aren't attacking the flanks with Ramsey, they usually are battering the middle with Stewart, who has speed as well as power. As a change of pace, Ramsey has been known to put the ball in the air, but not often, or to hand off to one of his halfbacks: this year, sophomore Randy Brooks and junior Chris Hill. But when you're hunting with a double-barrel shotgun, why throw rocks? Especially against an upgraded schedule.
Last season Kentucky played seven home games; this year, they have five. "And I thought last year's schedule was tough," says Curci. "Going in, there wasn't one game I was sure of winning. If anything, this year's schedule is tougher. After last season, our fans think we can line up with anybody. But we're still five or six players away from a top-notch national contender. If we are going to do well, everybody will have to be ready."
20 Brigham Young