Outside wide receivers
Dorian Baker and Jeff Badet have not had too much competition on the outside in the past. That’s changed thanks to a pair of redshirt freshmen and a Junior College transfer.
Kayaune Ross doesn’t have insane speed, but he doesn’t need it. At 6’6″, the JUCO transfer can easily create separation on the outside. He needs to improve his route-running, but there won’t be too many defenders that can compete with him for jump balls.
Tavin Richardson had a few good moments on the outside, but the other receiver in the Class of 2015 had more than one big plays deep downfield. Jabari Greenwood beat a safety, running away with a deep reception. The most impressive catch he had was not in stride. Going up against another safety, he had to slow down at the end of his route. Rather than waiting on the ball to give the safety a play on the pass, he attacked it in midair, catching it at its highest point.
All of the slot receivers had their fair share of good catches in traffic. Ryan Timmons’ one bad play was outweighed by the 4-5 he caught across the middle. Juice had a few good moments as well, but there’s something about seeing Charles Walker lay out in traffic that makes your jaw drop.
If the ball is in his vicinity, he catches it. There were a few times you didn’t think the ball was going to make it through traffic, yet he hung in there and made the catch. He laid out for one near the ground to catch a pass. The only time he let one go, he had to avoid a collision with Darius West that could have injured them both. Stoops said after practice that Walker will play a “big role” this fall, because he most certainly should.
He allowed zero receptions in his first day at camp. Last I checked, that’s pretty good.
In the first two days of practice, you don’t expect your quarterback to make a good decision every time he throws it. What’s encouraging to see, there’s no hesitation in his decision-making. He lets it fly, putting a buzz on every single pass.
The offense made their money throwing in the middle of the field. He didn’t hesitate to deliver it in traffic, fitting passes into tight windows. His timing on deep balls was exceptional; he didn’t under throw any passes and only led his receivers too far less than a handful of times. He also used his check-downs well, finding running backs in the gaps of the defense, helping turn what appeared to be busted plays into big gains.
Blake Bone’s Hair
It wasn’t just his hair. Bone made a highlight-worthy play in one-on-ones that made it into KY Wildcats TV’s reel, but a play late in practice was equally bad.
Today he did what my high school coaches would call a “ballerina hop.” There was a high pass about 12 yards away in the middle of the field. He could have gone up with two hands to make the catch. Instead, he did the ballerina hop and threw up one hand for an incompletion.
With Tavin Richardson and Jabari Greenwood playing well, it will be difficult finding the field if he doesn’t change his ways.
The Hill of Encouragement
I ran up the turf-covered slopes to the side. That wasn’t difficult. Doing squat jumps up the ten steep steps to the left seems impossible. The speed steps in the middle might be more difficult, whereas the sprint up the right side doesn’t appear to be as bad. But once you’re at the top, it’s one of the best views on campus.
I watched the last hour of practice from atop the running hill. It was a serene, surreal feeling.
With the renovated Commonwealth Stadium looming over the practice fields at one end, the UK water tower pokes through the trees of the arboretum on the other side. For the first time since I began covering the Cats, contentment washed over me.
Everything feels right. Everything is set in place. Pulling the program from the cellar, Mark Stoops’ Kentucky Wildcats have finally reached the starting line of success. The facilities could not be any better. The roster is filled with enough of the right players to be successful. The only thing missing — wins. Once those come, this beautiful portrait will be complete.