The University of Kentucky announced that rising senior receiver Jeff Badet is transferring from the program. The news was somewhat surprising given Badet’s late season, big-play significance that considerably influenced Mark Stoops’ team in its resurgence to a New Year’s bowl game. But, thinking back there was an in-season “discussion” between the team’s leading receiver (yardage) and head coach that could have acted as a precursor to Friday’s declaration.
Jeff Badet was the Wildcats big-play receiver in 2016: 31 receptions, 671 yards, 4 TDs, 21.6 ypc. His connection with QB Stephen Johnson during post routes became a thing of beauty. Badet’s YAC (yards after catch) were reflected in his 21.6 yards per reception average that was good enough for 2nd best in Kentucky Football history as well as being one of the best in all of college football.
Badet’s departure will be felt early on in 2017. But, just like in life, the show and team must go on. I agree with assessments that his absence is substantial but I’d be negligent if I didn’t add a realistic approach to the Kentucky receiver corps.
During the 2016 season I frequently said that UK needed to focus recruiting on two positions: receiver and defensive line. To be frank; 31 catches and 4 TDs are not #1 receiver numbers and are replaceable; granted, if the Cats had been more proficient in the passing game, Badet’s stats would have been much higher. But if Kentucky’s 2017 leading receiver doesn’t exceed 31 catches and 4 TDs then there will be bigger issues than a single player’s decision to transfer. While the importance of losing a home run threat and a veteran receiver like Jeff Badet cannot be understated, Lamar Thomas will have other options. Garrett Johnson is now expected to be the Cats’ top explosive-play receiver. Juice will have company in that department.
X, or outside receivers Dorian Baker, Blake Bone, Kayaune Ross, Jabari Greenwood and Tavin Richardson will be joined by incoming 4-star JaVonte Richardson and late-riser Isaiah Epps.
Inside or slot pass catchers will include Charles Walker, Zy’aire Hughes, and Garrett Johnson along with highly explosive rookie Clevan Thomas who is already on campus preparing for spring practice. If things play out to trend, Saturday’s announcement in Youngstown would mean that the ultra-explosive athlete Lynn Bowden will be added to the list. UK is also diligently working for signatures from Miami WR Kevaughn Dingle and 4-star Danny Davis. All incoming freshman receivers are good enough to play now.
If you noticed in the title, my question is “what’s” next, not who. Wildcat running backs’ pass catching status will be enhanced by redshirt freshman AJ Rose as well as possible late additions to the Class of 17. Kentucky’s outside-WR/inside-WR/RB/TE should be talented and deep enough to evolve into a complete passing game that can absorb Badet’s departure while providing balance to Benny Snell’s rushing attack.
While leaning on freshman can be a dangerous proposition in college football, receiver is a position that is friendly towards the inexperienced. The football rule of thumb states that the further the position is from the pre-snapped football the easier the transition is for rookies.
As expected, both Mark Stoops and Jeff Badet were classy and respectful in remarks:
Stoops, “I appreciate Jeff and the contributions he made to the program during his time here.” We wish him the best of luck in the future.”
Jeff Badet, “I want to thank all the coaches, especially Coach Stoops, for everything they’ve done for me over the past four years.” I also want to thank my brothers on the team and the Big Blue Nation for their support. I just feel like it’s the best decision for me to finish my career as a graduate transfer. I’ll always be proud of receiving my degree from UK and I’ll bleed blue forever.”
We wish Jeff Badet the best of luck and would like to say thanks for hard work and positive results while in Lexington. Set to graduate in May with an Agricultural Economics degree, Badet has performed his duties as a Wildcat at an extremely high level.