Roark flying under radar

There’s a do-it-all wide receiver on the UK football team. He’s set personal bests in receptions and yards this year, and he’s also a major contributor on special teams.

Randall Cobb receives most of the spotlight, but fellow junior Matt Roark keeps himself busy on game day as well. He serves as UK’s No. 4 receiver, but he’s also a standout on Greg Nord’s special teams. Unlike many special-teamers, who have one job or only play on one or two special teams, Roark has a job on every one of them.

“We put him in key and vital positions on every one of the teams,” special teams coordinator Greg Nord said. “We put him on the hardest assignment usually, because we know that he’ll match up well and be able to make some plays. He brings enthusiasm to the group, and everybody rallies behind him.”

Cobb is listed as a WR/QB/HL/PR/KR in the media guide. Nord said that he’d have to classify Roark as a “receiver, coverage, blocker, and special teams where we need him.” So far this season, Roark has accounted for 11 receptions for 163 yards, four tackles during kick coverage on special teams, a blocked kick at Florida and a 2-point conversion against Georgia.

His ability to block kicks has earned the 6-foot-5 Roark the most acclaim. He has six for his career, including one in 2008 that helped UK to a 14-13 win against Mississippi State. But Roark’s favorite job comes on the coverage team, when he’s responsible for chasing down returners.

“You just go down there and try and hit somebody,” Roark said. “You don’t have to worry about assignment or technique, you just go down there and play.”

That’s unusual for a wide receiver, but not for Roark. Even in high school, when he played quarterback and safety, Roark was used to taking extra responsibilities. Roark’s old quarterbacks coach at North Cobb High School in Acworth, Ga., is his position coach now — wide receivers coach Tee Martin.

Not surprisingly, he also played basketball in high school. His jumping ability shows up the most when he tries to block kicks, which Nord said is one of the hardest things to do in football.

“ If you’re just a little bit off, he’ll be there to get it,” he said. “What’s amazing is that (Roark) has such a great effort when he does it every time because he has nine, 10, 11 guys taking shots at him and he goes in there every time and gives it a great effort.”

With senior wide receiver Chris Matthews graduating, there might be a need for Roark to take even more responsibility on offense next year. Roark said he’d welcome the opportunity to see more action as a receiver, but he’ll still have plenty of chances to make plays on special teams.

“I think the whole mode of the team is that special teams are going to be important and our best players are going to play,” Nord said. “He’s shown that he can play at a high level on special teams, so we’ll throw that in with the rest of his responsibilities.”