The average college football Spring Game is never meant to show much. In most instances, teams barely scratch the surface of the playbook, competition is light, and the stars almost never make it too far past halftime. Above all else, the main priority is to make it out injury-free.
In several instances, though, a player outside the box a bit will make a flashy play or two to turn heads. The players coaches rave about all spring can separate themselves on the depth chart going into the summer. It’s dangerous to take too much away from the game as a whole, but strong individual performances can’t hurt optimism about specific position groups, increased playing time, etc.
Tonight, redshirt freshman wide receiver Bryce Oliver proved to be that breakout prospect.
His stat-line of eight catches on eight targets, 105 yards (team high), and a touchdown was certainly impressive. But how he put up those numbers is what made onlookers raise their eyebrows and drop their jaws time and time again.
In his first major highlight of the day, Oliver created separation on the sideline against redshirt sophomore cornerback Cedrick Dort, adjusted his body, extended his arms to high point the ball, and pulled in the difficult catch.
Huge catch from Bryce Oliver pic.twitter.com/128N6Us0yl
— Kentucky Sports News (@UKySportsNews) April 12, 2019
Later, he had yet another phenomenal catch on the sideline, again over Dort.
Oliver finished his highlight reel off with a touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone, finding empty space on the broken play.
Bryce Oliver continues to look impressive. pic.twitter.com/vUk9D4sbj8
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) April 12, 2019
Considered a three-star prospect out of Dillard High School (FL) in the class of 2018, Oliver was known for his elite jump ball ability before making it to Lexington. Listed as the No. 143 wide receiver in the nation (ESPN) out of high school, the 6-foot-1 wideout chose Kentucky over Louisville, Iowa State, Iowa, and North Carolina State, among others.
After redshirting last season, head coach Mark Stoops has been raving about Oliver all spring, saying he could be a playmaker for the Wildcats this season.
And the praise certainly didn’t stop after his dominant performance this evening.
“Bryce has showed up all spring,” Stoops said. “He’s been solid. I’ve mentioned him. He’s one of the young guys that can emerge as a playmaker. He’s a big, strong guy that can run and catch. So he’s got to continue to work really hard and put it all together.”
Oliver said that he was pleased with his performance, but feels he still has a ton of room to improve in several different areas.
“Overall, I think I played pretty well,” he said. “I made plays. I think I have a lot of things I need to touch on and work on, but overall I think I played pretty good.”
Quarterback Terry Wilson didn’t get any chances to throw a ball his direction in the scrimmage, but he said it’s evident Oliver is going to be a major player for the Wildcats in the future.
“Oh yeah, Bryce has been looking really good,” he said. “He made some big catches out there. Bryce is a really good receiver. I just feel that when he gets around the learning curve and knows more about the game, he’ll be solid.”
Kentucky star receiver Lynn Bowden said Oliver’s breakout performance is no surprise. With his tenacious work ethic and competitive nature, the redshirt sophomore was bound to impress in his first real opportunity under the spotlight.
“He has a dog in him that no one else can take away from him,” he said.
After the game, a confident Oliver said that he was only doing his job tonight. If you play receiver, your job is to catch the ball, and that’s exactly what he did.
“I always tell myself that every ball that’s thrown my way, I have to make a play,” he said. “I feel that as a receiver, that’s my job, to catch the ball and make plays.”
To take it a step further, Oliver said that he doesn’t believe in 50-50 balls. Every ball that comes his way, no matter the level of difficulty, needs to be caught.
“I feel like every ball that comes my way is a 50-50 ball, but to me, it’s a 100 to zero ball because I’m going to come down with it,” he said.
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) April 13, 2019