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2018 Spring Practice Position Competition: Wide Receiver

Kentucky receivers are in need of enhanced production and depth. The bad news is that the Cats return just eight starts from the position group in a spring practice that will feature a quarterback competition (all eight belong to junior Tavin Richardson by the way). Four true freshmen receivers saw action a year ago; only Lynn Bowden Jr. showed flashes. The good news is that Dorian Baker and his 1,015 receiving yards return to provide leadership and a deep threat for Eddie Gran’s offense. Let’s dive deeper into the receiver position:

Lost Production from 2017


Name Catches Yards/TDs
*Garrett Johnson 42 539/2
*Kayaune Ross 19 286
Blake Bone 13 234/2
*Charles Walker 15 180
TOTAL 89 1,239/4

— For two consecutive seasons Garrett Johnson led the team in receptions. Johnson also finished his Kentucky career with over 2,000 receiving yards which ranks fourth in program history. His innate knack to move the chains on 3rd down will be sorely missed.

— Fellow starters Kayaune Ross and Charles Walker will also need to be replaced. Ross finished the 2017 strong but his bid for an additional year was declined. Walker worked his way from walk-on to starting WR and punt returner. The fan favorite also provided clutch catches in key moments of critical games.

— In total; 65% of WR catches, 64% of receiving yards, and 80% of the position’s touchdown catches have moved on. 

Returning Production from 2017


*Tavin Richardson 21 371/1
Lynn Bowden Jr. 17 210
Isiah Epps 4 55
Josh Ali 5 25
Clevan Thomas Jr. 1 4
TOTAL 48 665/1

Tavin Richardson is the group’s top returning producer and should remain in his role as a consistent starter.

— Sophomore Lynn Bowden Jr. evolved into an essential role within the Cats’ offense and special teams. Bowden Jr.’s role should see a significant increase in 2018. A rise in production is estimated due to his familiarity with the position (Played QB in high school).

— The three freshmen must show strides: Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps, and Clevan Thomas Jr. 2017 saw far too many “near misses” within this trio. Route execution and increased yards after catch are two obvious developmental essentials.

Incoming Freshmen Receivers

Name Height Weight
Marvin Alexander 6’2 180
Allen Dailey 6’3 195
Akeem Hayes 5’10 170
Bryce Oliver 6’3 200

— Kentucky has zero early-enrollee receivers. No impact on spring position competition.

How Important is Dorian Baker’s Return?

Starts Catches/Yards Touchdowns
24 88/1015 6

Dorian Baker missed 2017 due to a preseason injury. He was the 27th player in program history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards and brings a wealth of experienced to a receiving unit that returns just 8 combined starts, 48 receptions, 665-yards, and 1 touchdown from a year ago. Baker’s health status, leadership, and complete availability are vital to the team’s success.

Who are the Post-Spring Practice Starters?

 Tavin Richardson, Dorian Baker, and Lynn Bowden Jr. should emerge from spring practice as the Cats’ starters; however, Baker’s participation may be limited due to continuing rehabilitation. The smart play could be to limit the 5th year senior’s reps. Richardson and Bowden Jr. need to separate from the pack.

— Tavin Richardson is a prototypical X or outside receiver. He needs to become more consistent within the catching process to increase yards after reception.

— Lynn Bowden Jr. simply demands more repetitions at the receiver position. His transition from ATH/QB to receiver slowly developed a year ago; expect the electric sophomore to fly in 2018.

— Developing the second rotation is important. Here’s where new WR coach Michael Smith will earn his keep. Kentucky dropped from 17 TD receptions in 2016 to just 10 a year ago. This statistical drop can be attributed to Stephen Johnson’s injuries as well as not finding an adept replacement for Jeff Badet. In addition, yards after reception seemed to be significantly lower.

— This is a cycle. UK lacked the WR/QB combination to take the top off opposing defenses which allowed opponents the luxury of lying and waiting on the screen game. In other words, with no to little deep threat, the defense could play closer to the line-of-scrimmage.

— While possessing upper-shelf speed, Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps require detailed progress in executing the complete route tree and catching the football in traffic. Clevan Thomas is more of a possession receiver than speed merchant.

What does all this mean?

An incoming freshman or possibly two may see immediate playing time. However, spring practice offers an opportunity for those on campus to develop and improve under new WR coach Michael Smith. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran must replace the majority of his offense’s receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Last year offered immediate playing time for four true freshmen. Only Lynn Bowden Jr. showed flashes. The other three not so much. Coach Smith’s starters could be Bowden Jr., Baker, and Richardson. The next four-to-six are the players that make or break the position.

Smith has his hands full. Competition will be fierce, as it should be from a position that demands detailed improvement.


Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

17 Comments for 2018 Spring Practice Position Competition: Wide Receiver

  1. jr_hopkins
    6:50 pm February 19, 2018 Permalink

    we only had 5 passing touchdowns to WR’s all season?

    • Jay17282
      4:59 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

      Thats just WR doesn’t include TE and RB

  2. shelby
    7:48 pm February 19, 2018 Permalink

    Good write-up Freddie. I look for Tavin and bowen to be stars this year; those two along with baker should be a handful for opposing defenses.

  3. J-Dub421
    8:32 pm February 19, 2018 Permalink

    I’m expecting big things from Baker this year.

  4. ukkatzfan
    12:50 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

    Not concerned. I think a healthy QB will make a world of difference. Throw in return of Baker, new coach, and maturation….we good.

    • kjd
      7:50 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

      I agree with you, healthy QB a big plus.
      Pretty sad we had no one to replace Badet. One deep threat on the whole team. Recruiting issue? Poor coaching? Whatever it is, has to improve immediately.

    • notFromhere
      10:08 am February 20, 2018 Permalink


  5. BradCalthegoat
    8:15 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

    I think this team can reach our goal of another 6-7 win season.

    • runningunnin.454
      9:30 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

      Be positive, or be gone…and stay gone; you lost all your UK privileges.

    • mikey
      2:46 pm February 20, 2018 Permalink

      @Bradcalthegoat the banner coming down has to upset you.

  6. USMC5150
    8:55 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

    I’m hoping this is the year we finally see more passes to the CJ instead of him blocking most plays

  7. Sentient Third Eye
    9:07 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

    I would call this a thin, but talented group. They will be fine if they can avoid any major injuries, since there are really only three proven commodities. And, of course, developing the youngsters will be a priority as well.

  8. Alleykat16
    9:19 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

    Johnson was our deep threat with his speed but I think we just couldn’t get him the ball QB couldn’t get the ball out there were Johnson could just run to it all receivers on deep balls had to come back to the ball loved Johnson heart but just had no arm strength due to injuries or just weak if his arm strength was as big as his heart he could have threw the ball out of stadium but he had to throw the ball high to get distance and that’s not going to work got to be able to throw more on a line unless it’s a hail mary

    • notFromhere
      10:10 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

      Don’t have to throw a deep ball on a line. Just have to hit the receiver in stride. Healthy shoulders are critical to that.

  9. RackEmWillie
    10:03 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

    Some of the things that I think that have been missing are guys who can take an intermediate route (5-10 yards) and turn it into a bigger gain. Maybe it’s lack of QB production, I don’t know. But, having someone who can take a medium route and get an additional 5 or 10 yards out of it is a huge advantage.

    Plus, they haven’t been good at catching bad passes. I know that’s a 2 sided issue, but, at some point in time if the ball comes to you, you’ve got to catch it. If you get a hand on it, bring it in. It’s been quite a few seasons when I truly felt comfortable knowing that they would make the catch on 90% of catchable balls. That would have been the difference in probably 2 games last year.

  10. notFromhere
    10:15 am February 20, 2018 Permalink

    Needing to run the ball so much from the QB position, we didn’t have a WR put up the kind of numbers that would attract a 4 star without. If Gunnar or Terry can produce across the entire passing tree, that might change next year.

    If Pats can win the AFC without superstar WRs, the Cats can win without them also.

  11. notFromhere
    1:36 pm February 21, 2018 Permalink

    Still ticked they didn’t give Ross another year of eligibility