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June 6, 2009
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks was in California when news broke May 23 that senior defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon's college career was over after he tested positive for a banned substance.
"It just makes me sick because he's obviously a great player, but he's also a great person," Brooks said last week. "It just broke my heart when he did his press conference. But the way he handled it is the way he's handled everything since he's been here - with class."
Jarmon did not take an illegal substance. He purchased the dietary supplement from a local nutrition store. The problem is that it contained elements banned by the NCAA. Jarmon admits to the mistake of taking the product without first consulting the Kentucky training staff.
Brooks is torn on his feelings about the process.
"This was absolutely not intentional. It was inadvertent," the coach said. "But I'm sure that NCAA committee has heard all kinds of different things over the years.
"To me, there ought to be a revisiting of the severity of that penalty based on a lot of other things that I think are a heck of a lot worse. Things that happen with players who may not even get suspended for a game or who may miss a game. But I also think the FDA should do a much better job of policing health food stores so that they're not marketing banned substances in their products. That, to me, is the major thing."
Losing Jarmon removes a player who easily would have become the school's all-time leader in sacks. But perhaps more important is the leadership void from a popular player who graduated in three and a half years and was a beacon in the community.
"You miss Jeremy in a lot of ways, but we have other players that need to fill that void. Just like last year when we had players fill the void of all the leaders we had the year before," Brooks said. "That's one of the ingredients that you have to have if you're going to be a consistent team that's in postseason play. You have to have people in your locker room who assume that leadership role, and I think we have people that are totally capable of doing that."
On the defensive line, there is little experience to fill Jarmon's void. The most likely candidates are sophomore Chandler Burden and redshirt freshmen Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham.
"We don't have a lot of experience returning, but it's not like we're totally void of talent," Brooks said. "Three or four years ago, this would have been a double loss, not only leadership and talent but experience and not having anybody to step in and be a productive player at that position.
"We've got three guys who emerged in the spring. Chandler Burden had a very good spring. He really made a major improvement. Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham both did some really good things and have bright futures."
The X-factor could be DeQuin Evans, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive end from Los Angeles Harbor Community College. The four-star JUCO standout will begin work in fall camp.
"It obviously becomes very important that DeQuin Evans come in and get acclimated early so he can show what he can do," Brooks said.
Somewhere in that mix Brooks hopes to find someone who can be the playmaker like Jarmon, especially in terms of sacks.
"It was a product of not only his ability, but the ability of the people around him," Brooks said of Jarmon's sack prowess. "It's the people that push the pocket up the middle and force the quarterback to him. It's the coverage in the secondary. Hopefully, somebody will replace that statistics for us and I think they will."