Previewing Kentucky’s Receivers and Tight Ends
Hello everyone and welcome back to our position by position look at Mark Stoops’ fifth Wildcat football team. Today’s focus will be Previewing Kentucky’s Receivers and Tight Ends. In the first installment we took a look at the quarterbacks and running backs. In case you missed it you can check it at the link below.
Looking For More Improvement in 2017
Under first year receivers coach Lamar Thomas the Wildcat receiving corps improved greatly over 2015. However they continued to be plagued by dropped passes, seemingly at the most inopportune times.
Heading into 2017 the Cats must replace their leader in receiving yards from 2016. Shortly after the end of last season Jeff Badet announced he was transferring to Oklahoma to play for Stoops’ brother Bob. Shortly thereafter Stoops shocked the college football world by announcing his retirement. Kentucky will miss Badet’s speed and 670 receiving yards.
Even without Badet the Wildcats have 13 receivers on the roster, many of whom the coaching staff believe are ready to step up. First on the list is senior Garrett Johnson the teams number one big play guy from last season. Johnson hauled in a team high five touchdowns on 39 catches for 585 yards. Two of those scores came in the Cats 41-38 upset of Louisville.
Three more guys the coaching staff is looking for big things from are Dorian Baker, Tavin Richardson and Kayaune Ross. Of the three Baker has the best returning stats with 14 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Richardson hauled in nine passes for 160 yards playing as a freshman. Ross only had two catches in 2016 however one was for a touchdown. Coach Thomas thinks with his six foot six frame he can be a huge asset on the goal line.
Another player the staff is looking for a bounce back season is senior Blake Bone. After a good sophomore campaign Bone struggled with a hamstring injury and had only five catches. The injury was so serious Bone considered giving up football. However a meeting with Stoops has him back on the field and playing. Getting more production from him is a big key to the offense.
Help From True Freshmen?
Much has been written about the Stoops’ 2017 recruiting class and several players look to make an immediate impact.
Ever since he committed to Kentucky in January Lynn Bowden has been the talk of the Big Blue Nation. The number four ranked athlete in the nation is anxious to show fans why he is so highly rated. For weeks Bowden has not practiced with the team while waiting for to clear the NCAA Academic Clearinghouse. Late Friday night Christmas came early for Kentucky fans.
Source tells KSR that Lynn Bowden has been cleared for his UK Football eligibility
Bowden practiced for the first time on Saturday and needless to say he is excited to be out there.
Now available to play Bowden has the potential to be the best athlete at Kentucky since Randall Cobb almost a decade ago.
Another player who has been turning heads is Clevan Thomas a wide receiver from Miami, Florida. Going into camp he is the only freshman on the two deep depth chart. As an early enrollee Thomas played well during the spring game and has continued to play well in the fall.
Two other standouts early in practice are also freshmen. Isaiah Epps and Josh Ali have been turning heads with their play. Time will tell if the two can break into the receivers rotation for 2017.
One of the SEC’s Best Tight Ends
As we continue Previewing Kentucky’s Receivers and Tight Ends we move down the line of scrimmage to the tight ends. In C.J. Conrad the Cats have one of the best at his position in the SEC.
Conrad has been well documented as a run blocker, now the Cats need more consistency from him as a pass catcher. After catching three touchdowns against New Mexico State Conrad only found the end zone one more time time in 2016.
Many times it seemed he and quarterback Stephen Johnson could never get on the same page. For the Cats to be successful in 2017 they will need more from Conrad than 19 catches and 262 yards.
In addition to Conrad the Cats have two other SEC caliber tight ends in senior Greg Hart and sophomore Justin Rigg. Hart, a former Nebraska transfer, hauled in six passes for 32 yards last season. Rigg suffered a rib injury in the season’s third game and never saw action the remainder of 2016. Tight ends coach Vince Marrow says he feels comfortable with any of those three on the field.
That does it for Previewing Kentucky’s Receiver and Tight Ends here at Last Word on College Football. In the next installment we will be looking at the offensive and defensive lines.