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UK Freshmen Bring Contrasting Perspective to First Governor's Cup Game

This article appears courtesy of KY Forward and is written by Jon Hale. KY Forward's coverage of UK Athletics is sponsored by Republic Bank.

The two Kentucky high school graduates in the UK freshman class expected to play Saturday versus Louisville bring different perspectives to their first Governor’s Cup rivalry game.

Reserve defensive end Jason Hatcher, a Trinity High School graduate, grew up in a pro-Louisville household. His mother even dedicated a room in her house to Cardinal memorabilia. ranked Hatcher as the third-best prospect in Kentucky in the class of 2013. Louisville was among the final schools Hatcher eliminated before signing with UK.

“It’s another game, but I’ve got such a connection with the guys there,” Hatcher said. “It’s going to be a very big edge for me. It’s going to be a lot of hype on the game to say the least.”

Wide receiver Ryan Timmons, a Franklin County High School graduate, grew up in a pro-UK home. He can list just one family member, an uncle, who roots for the Cardinals.

Rivals ranked Timmons as the fifth-best prospect in the state. He boasted scholarship offers from the likes of Ohio State and Florida, but never heard from the Cardinals in the recruiting process.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Timmons said. “It’s just the next team ahead, so I have to play the game like I do any other.”

Hatcher and Timmons were the first two prospects recruited by Mark Stoops‘ staff after arriving in Lexington. On his first day on the job, defensive coordinator D. J. Eliot visited Timmons in Frankfort. That afternoon, he visited Hatcher in Louisville.

UK veterans have talked this week about preparing the Wildcat freshmen for their first exposure to the Governor’s Cup rivalry.

Hatcher and Timmons need no such instruction.

“It’s pretty big for me and my family, first one playing in the Louisville/Kentucky game in any sport,” Timmons said. “I think it’s going to be pretty cool to play in a game like that.”

Through two games, Timmons has totaled 131 all-purpose yards with 70 rushing yards and 61 receiving yards. Hatcher has been credited with five tackles, including two solo ones, and one quarterback hurry.

Timmons is listed as one of the three starting wide receivers on UK’s depth chart and tied for second on the team by with five targets from UK quarterbacks in the passing game versus Miami (Ohio).

Hatcher is listed as the backup to junior defensive end Bud Dupree on the depth chart but saw extensive playing time versus the RedHawks as starting defensive end Za’Darius Smith spent the second half on the bench in the blowout win.

Both players are still adjusting to the college game, but they hope to make an impact Saturday versus the Cardinals.

They expect all their family members, even the Louisville fans, to be wearing blue Saturday.

Timmons plans to withhold tickets from his uncle if he wants to root for Louisville. Hatcher thinks his mother is starting to get the hang of rooting for the Wildcats.

“She’s starting to even like basketball,” he said with a smile.

For Hatcher, the matchup with the Cardinals will mean seeing some familiar faces on the other side of the ball.

He got to know many of the Louisville players during the recruiting process, including Hesiman Trophy candidate Teddy Bridgewater. His high school classmate James Quick signed with the Cardinals last spring.

Timmons will not need to worry about matching up against friends Saturday. Asked if he thought the Cardinals chose to not recruit him after securing a commitment from Quick, the consensus No. 1 player in the Kentucky class of 2013, Timmons was unable to speculate on the coaches’ thinking.

“I never really got recruited to talked to by any Louisville coaches at all, at any point,” he said. “So I really don’t know how they feel about me.”

If Quick, who has not caught a pass in two games as a Cardinal, gets the ball Saturday, Hatcher may be asked to tackle his longtime friend.

His expectations for that scenario seem to reflect his feeling on the rivalry game as a whole:

“I’m going to make sure he feels it, then I’m going to help him up.”

And, should fans be worried about Hatcher, Timmons and the other UK freshmen letting their nerves affect their play in their first rivalry game?

“The good thing about the young guys is, they don’t know any better,” said offensive coordinator Neal Brown. “Last week was their first home game, the week before that was their first game ever. This is their first Louisville game. They just kind of go with the flow.”

Photo: Ryan Timmons runs for a big gain against Miami (OH) last Saturday/Jon Hale