Kentucky’s 2016 offense was defined by powerful running on the ground and explosive plays through the air. Kentucky completed 20 passes of 30 yards or more last season. This year completing the deep ball has not come so easily.
Kentucky has completed six passes for 30+ yards so far, but they’ve come in a different way. Instead of going long through the air, receivers are racking up big chunks of yards after the catch. It’s worked for now, but the offense needs to take the top off the defense.
“I’m just like you guys, I’m eager to see us hit on some of those deep balls,” Lamar Thomas said. “We’re very close. We’ve been practicing. The timing is getting a lot better, but we’re going to have to if teams come up and press us. We got to, to help our running game. If they’re going to come up and try to stop us by putting nine guys in the box, ten guys in the box, maybe 11 guys in the box, we gotta be able to connect downfield to get them off again.”
They’re coming up short for a variety of reasons. Defensive penalties are a big reason why, and Eddie Gran doesn’t believe that’s necessarily a bad thing.
“That’s good. That means we’re getting behind them, but it would be nice to connect on a couple of those. We kind of started that. At the end of last year we really started to hit the long ball, so we need to absolutely do that for an explosive play.”
One receiver Stephen Johnson is looking to find is true freshman Isaiah Epps. Often compared to Jeff Badet, Epps has the speed and skills, but has yet to experience the big play. A few were rookie mistakes. Others were stopped because of the penalties.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Epps said, “but a catch and a PI (pass interference) are positive plays, so either way I can help the team.”
Johnson shares Epps’ frustrations. “A little bit, but I know our time is going to come. We work it everyday in practice. His speed, we really got to get him the ball. It’s going to end up happening at some point.”
Once it finally happens, opponents are in trouble.
“I feel like it’s just a matter of time before he catches that one deep ball,” Juice said. “After that, it’s going to be over with.”