Louisville C-J UK beat writer, Kyle Tucker, took time to explore the coaches thoughts on the most experienced returning player of the wide receiver corps. That player is Gene McCaskill, whose leadership and reliability are being recognized as key factors on offense heading into next season.
Gene found himself sidelined with a terrible ACL tear in his left knee last August. We’re glad Gene is back, but even Joker said, “he’s not a dynamic guy with the ball in his hands, especially after his knee.” But for the Wildcats, they aren’t looking for dynamic from McCaskill. As Tucker phrases it, UK needs and expects Gene McCaskill to be ‘Mr. Reliable’. Why? For starters, because only two receivers on the roster have caught more than eighteen career passes. Also, UK lost their biggest play-making wide receiver and running back, not to mention bringing in a quarterback who had a shaky start to his career (but who we believe is fully on board and ready to turn heads nationally this year). So when you think about it, reliability is probably the most important factor we need on offense next season.
“Having played in 25 games and started 10, McCaskill knows the offense. He runs good routes. He has sure hands. That’s why the Wildcats are thrilled that he’s back, almost at full speed.”
Usually the terms ‘thrilled’ and ‘almost at full speed’ don’t coincide, but Joker and the coaches don’t see breakout speed as what they need from McCaskill. They need him to be a leader on the field, to reel in catchable balls throw in his vicinity, to not fumble, to run precise routes, and to show the less experienced guys what they need to do to improve.
Due to his injury, Gene is being held out of practice every other day. He says it’s killing and that he hates not being out there. Randy Sanders notes that the other receivers seem to be ‘running in mud’ after the hard workouts, and Gene doesn’t need that type of damage on his knee. UK can’t afford to re-injure their veteran receiver who brings important things to the offense.
We can worry that using ‘reliability’ as a big factor sounds akin to the early Hartline days when people argued that his inability to throw the long ball outweighed his reliability. There’s something to that. When an entire offense rests are merely not making mistakes instead of breaking off big plays, it’s going to be tougher to score the ball. But you can’t discount the positive effect that being able to count on someone to not make a mistake has on the overall game. Catches for 3 or 4 yards will always outweigh incorrect routes and drops way downfield.
One more week. Filling up the cooler with ice right now. See you down there? Go Cats.