One of the most frustrating things about last season was the inexplicable lack of catching ability from the receivers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more dropped passes than I did from that group over the course of the twelve game slate. Dropped passes often stymied drives and destroyed momentum and it seemed like no matter what the guys supposedly did in practice, they simply weren’t making any improvement. Fast forward to this season and the Blue/White game. We still have some tweaks to make, like Ronnie Shields dropping an easy pass in the first half, but for the most part the receivers played better. DeMarco Robinson emerged as a big playmaker after amassing 146 yards and two touchdown catches and the tight ends, Tyler Robinson and Ronnie Shields, stepped up to chip in over 100 receiving yards between them. Maxwell Smith finished 353 yards on 29-45 passing with his best receiver, La’Rod King, sidelined with an injury.
It’s difficult to pull anything solid from a game played against our second unit, but Smith and his receivers show some promise. In post game interviews, Maxwell said that he likes throwing to the tight ends because they’re big targets in the middle of the field. That’s a refreshing sentiment considering UK hasn’t had a real tight end receiving threat since Jacob Tamme graduated. If Robinson and Shields can step up and make plays then they should have a great relationship with the second-year quarterback.
If those guys are able to secure the middle then DeMarco and La’Rod, assuming his injury doesn’t hinder him, should be able to stretch the field and make the big play or, at least, open up some passing lanes. Robinson flashed some game changing potential against the second unit. Couple that with what we know La’Rod is capable of, and this team may be able to generate something positive in the passing game.
Joker Phillips said that he’d like to get 80 offensive plays in per game and he’d prefer for 45 of those to be passing plays. Maxwell will be given ample opportunities to help this team succeed. Now the only thing we still need to see is if the receivers can step up and make the big catches when we’re playing another team’s first unit.