On the field, Hal Mumme has fashioned a reputation as a coach whose risky play calling incurs an enormous amount of pressure.
Off the field it's the same story, as was proven in mid-June when Kentucky's third-year coach pulled off the equivalent of a fake-punt inside his 10-yard line.
After returning starter Dusty Bonner supposedly strengthened his quarterback hold in spring drills, Mumme changed his mind and demoted Bonner in favor of redshirt freshman Jared Lorenzen.
The move surprised almost everyone, including Lorenzen.
"It shocked the heck out of me," Lorenzen said. "I didn't know. He flat out just told me he was going to start me, and I was speechless. I called my parents, and it shocked them, too."
Bonner, who led the SEC in six passing categories in 1999, transferred to his hometown school of Valdosta (Ga.) State University, where Mumme coached for five years before taking the reins at Kentucky.
So the pressure is right where Mumme wants it -- squarely on his own shoulders.
"If you're going to have a quarterbacks controversy, I'd rather have it in May than during the season," said Mumme, whose team went 6-6 with an appearance in the Music City Bowl. The Wildcats will attempt to earn a third straight bowl trip for the first time in school history.
Mumme said he based his decision on Lorenzen's arm strength and his ability to stretch the field. Few doubt the southpaw's ability to stretch his own uniform.
At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, Lorenzen appears more capable of blocking for a quarterback than playing as one. Mumme thought as much when Lorenzen, as a sophomore in high school, walked into Kentucky's film room and told Mumme he would start for him one day.
Mumme's response: "At offensive line, maybe."
Few other coaches were sold, either.
"All the Big Ten schools were saying, `We'll play you, but not as a quarterback,' Lorenzensaid. "There were only eight to 10 schools that wanted me to play quarterback."
But seeing what Lorenzen could do with a football had a way of changing perceptions. He says he can throw it 75 yards with consistency, and Mumme asserts that his arm is stronger than that of former Wildcat great Tim Couch.
"Coaches always tried to put me on the line or at tight end until I picked up a ball before practice and threw it," said Lorenzen, who led Highlands High of Fort Thomas, Ky., to the Class 3A state championship in 1998, completing 63 percent of his passes for 3,392 yards and 45 touchdowns. He also rushed for 904 yards and eight more scores.
"The coaches said, `You're a quarterback.' That's what I am. I'm a quarterback. That's what I do."
Lorenzen will be charged with guiding an offense that lost its leading rusher (Anthony White) and its top three receivers (James Whalen, White and Garry Davis) from a unit that ranked first in the SEC in passing offense with 299 yards per game.
The Wildcats' running game was 110th in Division I-A (75 yards per game), but that could change with the return of all offensive line starters and halfback Derek Homer, who rushed for 332 yards and hauled in 19 receptions.
The defense was expected to be solid in 1999 but struggled, giving up an SEC-worst 29.4 points per game. Kentucky returns four of its top six leading tacklers, including senior linebacker Marlon McCree.
Mumme says his biggest concern is the defensive line, where the Wildcats lost the defensive-tackle duo of George Massey and Gordon Crowe.
Lorenzen is entrenched at quarterback. But don't count him out for defensive tackle.
"I don't care how much he weighs," Mumme said. "He's in good condition. He's a good athlete. And he can do some things a lot of guys can't do with the ball."
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com.
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