Part three in an eight part series previewing the 2013 Kentucky Football Wildcats.
Tight Ends coach Vince Marrow, who apparently started college at age 47.
Kentucky is thin at the wide receiver position. (drops mic.) Actually, to expound on that point a bit, the word “thin” somewhat undersells the point. In an offense which hopes to race to 80 or more snaps per game, about 70% of which will likely be passing plays, Kentucky is absolutely emaciated at the wide receiver position. Offensive Coordinator Neal Brown has not hidden from this fact, recently identifying the receiver position as the biggest offensive question mark heading into the 2013 season. While I admire Brown’s ability to provide an honest, non-Belichickian assessment of his roster, his admission of the concern regarding the receiving corps is somewhat unnecessary. A quick perusal of the post-Spring depth chart provides a clear picture of the Cats’ issues at the position heading into the season.
Of the eight players listed on the current wide receiver depth chart, 3 are walk-ons, one is a converted tight end, and half are 6′ tall or smaller. Perhaps most significantly, the eight players presently listed at the top of the depth chart have combined for exactly zero touchdowns in their UK careers. It will be largely up to this unproven group, along with a handful of newcomers, to make the Air Raid sirens hum again at Commonwealth Stadium.
Depth Chart (Receiver):
Wide Receiver One
Demarco Robinson 5-10, 158 Jr., Ellenwood, GA
Austin Sheehan 5-9, 157 Fr-RS., Ft. Thomas, KY (walk on)
AJ Johnson 6-2, 227 Jr., Portland, OR (walk on)
Wide Receiver Two
Darryl Collins 5-11, 205 So., Gadsen, AL
Ronnie Shields 6-5, 227 Jr., Stone Mtn., GA
William Tanner 6-0, 184 Jr., Nashville, TN (walk on)
Wide Receiver Three
AJ Legree 6-1, 189 So., Ft. White, FL
Rashad Cunningham 6-4, 216 So., Mobile, AL
Tyler Robinson 6-3, 246 Sr., Friendsville, TN
Jordan Aumiller 6-4, 232 Sr., Danville, KY
Steven Borden 6-3, 237 Jr.-JC, Waxahache, TX
Patrick Ligon 6-4, 248 Sr., Germatown, TN
Anthony Kendrick 6-3, 233 Sr., Katy, TX
John Ballis 6-2, 212 Fr-RS, Houston, TX (walk on)
Neal Brown believes that the thin receiver corps will not doom the offense to another season of mediocrity. In order for him to be proven right, a few things must happen. First, some of the returning players must step up to levels far above what they have demonstrated to this stage in their careers. Secondly, a couple of talented newcomers will have to arrive in Lexington ready to contribute immediately. Finally, some other position groups, to include the tight ends, will have to provide significant support.
Of those returning receivers, the one most likely to thrive in the Air Raid attack is Demarco Robinson. Though hardly an imposing figure at 158 pounds, Robinson has great quickness, and is slippery in open space. Small receivers have been very effective in the Air Raid system in the past. Think Craig Yeast, who at 5-7, left Kentucky as the all-time leading receiver in SEC history with 208 career catches. Reaching that hallowed ground may be a tall order for Robinson, but as the all-time leader in receiving yards for a season in the state of Georgia, he clearly has the athletic ability to be a difference maker. Former Alabama commit Daryl Collins and fellow-returning sophomore AJ Legree, both of whom got their feet wet as freshman in 2012, are other likely contributors. 6-4 Rashad Cunningham and 6-5 converted tight end Ronnie Shields should provide quality red zone targets.
Kentucky will add four talented receivers this fall. Presumably, the most ready to play of that bunch would be junior college transfer Javess Blue. Blue, rated the number 14 junior college player in the nation by ESPN, was a junior college All American in 2012. He picked Kentucky over offers from Texas A and M, West Virginia and Mississippi State. Assuming he is eligible, which looks promising at this point, he will be an immediate factor. Also likely to contribute are Ryan Timmons , Jeff Badet and Alex Montgomery. Timmons is a home grown star from Franklin County who put up some of the most absurd high school stats you will ever see. As a senior, he rushed for 1300 yards and 25 touchdowns and caught 33 passes for 1004 yards and 16 touchdowns. He averaged an insane 16 yards per carry and 30 yards per reception. Incidentally, opposing teams avoided kicking to him on kickoffs all but three times last season. That turned out to be a prudent decision, as he returned all three that he got his hands on for touchdowns. Timmons is a burner who won five state sprinting championships in his high school career. He chose the Cats over offers from Florida, Arkansas and Ohio State. Badet and Montgomery are Florida kids who also picked the Cats over a number of high profile BCS programs. All four of these players will have the opportunity to contribute immediately.
With the lack of depth at wide receiver, the tight ends will have to help support the passing game. As seen in years past, this can be a nice fit in the Air Raid. Players such as Derek Smith and James Whalen (who once watched the Dukes of Hazzard in my dorm room) utilized the Air Raid to great success. Kentucky may use duel tight end sets, and will likely split tight ends out wide in an effort to exploit favorable match-ups. Kentucky has a great deal of experience at the position, and far greater depth than at receiver, but may not have a true game-breaker. Still, with a rather large group of returning veterans to choose from, at least one will likely prove a good fit for the system. My guess would be that senior Jordan Aumiller will be that guy.