You never know what you’re going to get from a player that has had to overcome a season-ending injury, and you expect even less after TWO season-ending injuries. All doubt and uncertainty were erased Saturday when Josh Clemons led all rushers with 97 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. Clemons has used his time off to get stronger, transforming into more of a power-runner, but his 38-yard run down the left sideline was reminiscent of his freshman year when he broke the Commonwealth Stadium record on an 87-yard touchdown run.
Clemons’ Saturday was even more special considering how well the other three running backs played. It will be tough to find minutes and carries for all four running backs, but the elder member of the group loves the competition, “Oh, it’s fun every day. We push each other, one guy makes a big run and you want to be the guy to step up and match it. We talk about each other, make fun out there but we also try and push each other for the best.”
Robinson was one of the most talented holdovers from the Joker Phillips era, yet the BBN has yet to see him reach his potential. After starting the 2013 season off strong (especially as a returner) an ankle injury kept him on and off the field. To make matters worse, Robinson has had multiple off the field incidents in the last six months.
Mark Stoops has given Robinson the chance to earn his way back on the team, and he is proud of his progress, “You know, he’s really improving. I’m really proud of the effort that he’s made off the field. He’s not perfect. Demarco has a lot of work to do in certain areas, but he’s trying and he’s battling and I’ve been proud that he’s really improved in a lot of ways.”
It certainly paid off Saturday as Robinson led the team in receiving, catching 8 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. On the final drive of the first half Pat Towles used Robinson as his go-to receiver, finding the small speedster on out-routes four times, keeping the drive alive that led to a field goal as time expired. With a thin group of wide receivers, Robinson’s play will be important to the success of the passing game.
Taking a page from Marcus McClinton’s “We Believe” book, Hytchye (you can call him “Leel”) debuted his song “Why Not”, firing up the fans and players. Hytchye backed up his lyrics with a phenomenal Spring game performance. Hytchye finished with the 2nd-most tackles of any player on the turf with 4.5 tackles, only to be outdone by his 2 pass breakups.
Hytchye was a highly-touted prospect as Stoops’ first commitment, but the speedster needed a year to learn wide receivers’ tendencies at the next level. His reaction time has improved greatly, making each catch for his man difficult. It’s safe to say that the Cats are going to have more than one interception in the secondary this season.
Without much depth or experience at linebacker, Stoops’ defense is desperately in need of playmakers. Blaylock didn’t see too much playing time at safety last season, but after working his tail off on Special Teams the coaches were obligated to give the tweener a shot at linebacker.
The move paid off and Blaylock led all players with six tackles. Blaylock’s play was exactly what Stoops was looking for, “It was very important. Daron is a guy that since he’s been here, really since he was recruited, he was in-between linebacker and safety. He’s a good player that we need to find the right spot for him, and Daron needs to continue to play with great fire and great energy,” Stoops said. “I was very proud of him a year ago the way he always competed and played on special teams.”
Injuries at wide receiver have been frustrating for the coaching staff, but they have kept the faith in their “next man up” mentality. Walk-on Cameron Fogle embraced the challenge and made significant strides this Spring, which were fully showcased Saturday. Drew Barker’s favorite target at Conner High School caught his first pass inside Commonwealth Stadium. Fogle may not be a homerun-receiver that can rake in dozens of yards after the catch, but his sure hands could earn him some legitimate playing time in the fall.