Jonathan George, a 2009 graduate of Lincoln High, has spent a year at the University of Kentucky learning plays and working out while also getting an education. After being redshirted his freshman year, the 5-10, 204-pound tailback is now ready to compete for playing time. He’s spent the summer working out and getting ready for fall camp.
“Everything is going good so far,” George said Thursday. “I’m doing a lot of running, lifting weights, training, getting in shape for the season and camp coming up.”
New Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said George has a bright future with the Wildcats.
“We know that Derrick Locke is our starter, starting tailback,” Phillips said at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. “We expect Jonathan to compete for the backup position and also be able to come in and help us on special teams.
“Jonathan was a state champion in wrestling, state champion in the 400 meters. He’s blessed with a great body, which says he should be a good special teams player. That’s what we expect him to do this year here. If something happens, if he’s competing for the backup position, he will immediately be the starter.
“He’s got a bright future. No question about that. One of the strongest kids on our team. We’re excited to have him there.”
George has noticed some differences at Kentucky since Phillips took over the program when Rich Brooks retired at the end of the 2009 season. He said those changes have been positive.
“I wouldn’t say drastic changes, but there have been some noticeable changes in the program, a different tempo in practice,” George said. “It seems like things are going better right now. We’re working hard. There’s more of a strict-type environment.”
George is one of several players competing for the back-up tailback spot and he hopes a decision is made by the end of fall camp.
“We’re all going hard,” George said. “I feel like it’s a pretty close race right now and maybe at the end of camp they’ll make a decision about the number two spot, whoever does the best. I’m just going to go out there and do my best.”
He made a statement in the spring scrimmage when he rushed for 127 yards and had a 73-yard touchdown run. George is also looking at special teams as a way to prove himself a valuable part of the team.
“At Kentucky, special teams is a big part of the program, so I really take a lot of pride in special teams,” he said. “I really want to give my all on special teams too because that’s an important part.”
In addition to working hard to be in shape and ready for the faster speed of the college game, George is also soaking up knowledge from the upperclassmen.
“Derrick Locke, the starting tailback, he keeps me updated on stuff that goes on in games,” George said. “He takes me into the film room and gives me pointers and tips on what to do and what not to do and what’s going on with the game speed. That really helps me out.
“Other upperclassmen, like the quarterbacks, they help me out. They let me know things like running routes and what I need to do to make it easier on them and easier on myself.”
Kentucky was picked by the media to finish fourth in the West. George said the Wildcats have lofty goals set for the 2010 season.
“We have big goals set for ourselves as a team,” George said. “We’re looking to make it to the national championship; that’s every team’s goal. But we’re taking it one step at a time. We’re committed to winning on the field and in the community. It starts with winning the first game, beating Louisville, to going to the championship. I feel like right now we’re headed in the right direction to achieving our goals.”
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