The quarterback spot gets most of the attention, but Kentucky’s wide receiving group has a long way to go. After a very tough season in 2020, there is some promise heading into 2021 under second-year position coach Jovon Bouknight.
Getting a super senior back in the lineup to go along with one of the biggest transfers in college football will bolster a much-maligned positional unit. However, the recruiting has been slowly improving on the outside and now there are players on the roster that fit the SEC’s athletic profile.
After touching on quarterbacks and running backs, we’re sliding outside to wide receivers in our post-spring series. Kentucky has big questions about this position, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism despite the loss of veteran Clevan Thomas Jr. to an ACL injury.
Josh Ali: One of the few South Florida products that didn’t transfer out, Ali is back for his fifth season after leading the team in targets (74), receptions (54), receiving yards (473), and 15-plus yard receptions (10) last season. However, this all occurred within a very short passing game structure and Ali’s success rate of 42.47 percent must improve this fall.
With 90 career receptions and the positional versatility to play either the slot or at Z receiver, Ali will be a valuable piece of the offense this fall. The Wildcats will be depending on the super senior early and often as they transition to a new scheme.
Wan’Dale Robinson: The most talked about player on the Kentucky football team, Robinson transferred into the program from Nebraska and has some major expectations this fall. The former top-100 recruit out of Frankfort (Ky.) Western Hills recorded 91 receptions in two seasons in Lincoln but is making this move to play wide receiver only after logging major snaps at running back for the Cornhuskers.
Robinson brings some top-notch short-area quickness to go along with open field juice to the offense. This is a player that creates easy separation and can make things happen when the ball is in his hands in space. The transfer has made an early impression on his teammates.
“Something I want y’all to know is that Wan’Dale Robinson is a great football player,” Josh Paschal told the media during spring practice. “He’s going to be the truth.”
Isaiah Epps: The Oklahoma native is now a redshirt senior and after a promising start to his career, the veteran has been slowed by injuries. The former low three-star recruit missed the entire 2019 season with a foot injury suffered in fall camp. That lingered into last season, but we saw some life from Epps to close the year.
The outside wideout recorded three receptions in the Gator Bowl victory over NC State and has the speed to be the outside receiving deep threat this offense has been looking for since Jeff Badet left following the 2016 season. Epps should be a key part of the rotation.
DeMarcus Harris: The Vero Beach, Fla., native started seven games for Kentucky as a redshirt freshman in 2020. The 6-1, 183-pound receiver was mainly a Z receiver for the offense and was an All-State selection in high school. Harris ranked fourth on the team in targets (23) but with no receptions of over 15 yards, the youngster didn’t give the offense much big-play pop. That must change this season.
Michael Drennen II: The monster recruiting win in the class of 2020, Drennen played sparingly as a true freshman. The gadget player that was used at running back and receiver in high school is still attempting to make the transition to the college game. With the loss of Thomas in the spring, Drennen has an opportunity to seize some playing time.
Tae Tae Crumes: The speedster out of Louisville (Ky.) Butler High, Crumes also has the top-end speed to stretch defenses vertically out of the Z receiver spot. The former three-star recruit in the class of 2019 has yet to see the field, but Mark Stoops has brought his name up multiple times as a potential playmaker this offseason.
“Tae Tae showed up today, toward the end of practice he caught a deep pass,” Stoops told reporters this spring. “I’ve been waiting to see him emerge because he’s got the speed we’ve been missing. It was great to see Tae Tae make some plays for us.”
Izayah Cummings: Another Louisville recruiting win for the program, Cummings is out of Male High and is entering year two in the program. At 6-3 and 228 pounds, the big wideout projects to be an X receiver that lines up into the boundary, but could create matchup problems in the slot if that is something Kentucky wanted to experiment with.
Earnest Sanders IV: The multi-sport athlete was a nice recruiting win for the program out of Michigan, and Sanders enters his redshirt freshman season looking to crack the rotation. A two-time All-State performer in basketball was also a track and field athlete in high school. The ceiling is mighty high for the former top-600 recruit.
Dekel Crowdus: The Lexington (Ky.) Frederick Douglass product, Crowdus answers a specific need for the offense. The speedster is a vertical field stretcher that can be a dynamic weapon when Kentucky tries to take home run swings. The blue-chip recruit has some rawness to him, but long-term this diminutive receiver — 5-10, 170 pounds — has playmaking juice.
Christian Lewis: Jager Burton and Trevin Wallace got most of the attention during the class of 2021 recruiting cycle, but Lewis was someone many were following closely. Jon Sumrall scored a big recruiting win in Alabama to land the 6-3 wideout. In his last two prep seasons, Lewis recorded 145 receptions, 2,633 yards, and 38 touchdowns while averaging 18.16 yards per catch. The blue-chipper will get some run at X receiver in fall camp.
Chauncey Magwood: An early enrollee from South Georgia, Magwood started every game all four years at Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County High playing wide receiver and quarterback. The slot receiver finished his career with 165 grabs and 19 touchdowns before transferring full-time to play quarterback as a senior. The coaching staff was impressed with the rookie this spring.
“Chauncey is another kid similar to La’Vell [Wright] that just eats it all up,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen told reporters. “He’s doing a really nice job of learning the book and getting in it. He’s just a great kid. You can see some of the former quarterback traits come out in his game in terms of just understanding some zones and voids.”
Tre’Von Morgan: The Michigan State transfer was a top-500 recruit in the class of 2019 out of Massillon (Ohio) Washington High. At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Morgan could be a monster matchup problem at X receiver. He’ll arrive in Lexington this summer with two career receptions.
Devonte Ross: The signing day surprise, Ross inked with Kentucky after being committed to Marshall. The wideout from Cartersville, Ga., did not have a star ranking until after joining Kentucky’s class. However, the tape shows a player with explosive athletic traits and strong hand-eye coordination.