Keaton Upshaw earning an expanded role for 2021


Kentucky tight end Keaton Upshaw catches a touchdown during the game against Florida on Saturday, September 14, 2019 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky lost 29-21. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Eric Decker

It was another difficult afternoon at the office for the Kentucky offense today in the Cats’ 34-10 loss to Florida. But for the second straight week, the team had a decent first half showing. And tight end Keaton Upshaw was at the center of it.

A redshirt sophomore, Upshaw seems to be a rising star. He gives some resemblance of hope for the passing game in future seasons. For a team that struggles to move the ball through the air, he’s someone they can feed the ball to.

“He can be a weapon,” Mark Stoops said postgame. “We will continue to try and get him the ball.”

This is true, to an extent: Stoops and Co. have been making an effort to integrate the 6-foot-6 tight end from Lima, Ohio for some time now. Through the first six games of the season, Upshaw only tallied five catches for 49 yards. The only game in that span where he had more than one reception was against Tennessee.

In the three games since the Georgia defeat, he’s gone for 113 yards and two scores. He has been finding holes in the defense when put on the field. For him, it’s a matter of opportunity. Upshaw started the Gator game with three catches on as many targets, including a touchdown that tied the game up during the second quarter.

In the second half? Not a single target. Despite the efficiency Terry Wilson has shown when looking his way, and his ability to pick up yards after the catch, it didn’t appear there was a consistent effort made to get the ball in his hands.

“We had a couple plays there in the second half where we were looking to hit him on an explosive play,” Stoops said. “He got jammed up, he got grabbed… didn’t get open. I’m not crying, but I mean he just got hit, it happens… but we’re trying to get him the ball some more.”

Upshaw obviously wants to make an impact, but he’s not one to gripe about the lack of looks. He’s knows this season has one or two games remaining, and he wants the team to do whatever is necessary to win them.

“It upsets me [not getting targets],” he said. “But we have to work hard as coaches and players [for] next week.”

Nevertheless, Upshaw is going to be a vital member of this program going forward into. In what’s already a lost season to some extent, finding what’s going to move this program forward in the future is vital. Especially when the waters are a little murky on who the starting quarterback is going to be next season in Lexington.

Having that reliable weapon in the flats and in the middle of the field will be paramount for whoever is under center. Upshaw certainly doesn’t lack the confidence to be that safety valve based on his comments postgame.

“[On the TD], I told T[erry Wilson] to just throw it up,” he said. ‘“No matter the circumstances and told him ‘I’m gonna get it for you.’”

We’ll see if Upshaw gets that chance in the regular season finale against South Carolina. Kickoff time and network for the game have yet to be announced.