UK football to create problems with wide receiver, running back depth


Freshman Bryce Oliver catches a touchdown pass during the game against Toledo on Saturday, August 31, 2019 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 38-24. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Erika Bonner

While Kentucky’s secondary might be spread a little thin towards the beginning of its schedule, the Wildcats should have no such problem on the opposite side of the ball. 

In the season opener against Toledo, starting quarterback Terry Wilson threw to seven different receivers and the three Wildcat running backs shared the wealth, combining for almost 200 yards. Although UK coaches didn’t exactly get what they wanted today out of backs AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez, one thing is for sure: the Cats’ depth at the receiving and running back cores is sure to give UK an extra boost this year. 

“Well, they made some competitive catches,” UK Head Coach Mark Stoops said. “And, again, I think later in the game when we were just settling in running our offense, throwing it, drop-back pass, we were efficient. That’s why late in the game we were trying to throw more as well. Just to get Terry comfortable, just get throwing the ball, and we go put it on the ground.”

Lynn Bowden, Ahmad Wagner, Allen Dailey, Keaton Upshaw, Bryce Oliver, Josh Ali and Justin Rigg all caught at least one pass against the Rockets, some of them extremely contested down the field, and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran thinks having so many reliable guys to catch tough passes will alleviate pressure off of Wilson and make him more confident in the pocket. 

“I think he’ll see that he can throw some things earlier,” Gran said. “…Not only the confidence there because they’re making plays, but let that thing rip. There’s nothing to hold back here. I think we’ve got good enough receivers, matter of fact, I know we do. And those guys will make plays for him and he’s got to let that thing rip. And I think he did it for the most part today.”

Gran also thinks a positive of having so many different options on offense is that it makes it much harder for Kentucky’s opponents to defend. Especially when one of those options is a 6-foot-5, 237 lb. wide receiver in Ahmad Wagner who can draw pass interference calls like nobody’s business. 

“We’ve been doing that this whole camp,” Wilson said. “So we were really confident in getting the ball to those guys, you know like Ahmad Wagner, he’s been doing big things and you guys got to see what type of player he is when he gets the ball in his hands. He’s special.” 

Having three running backs get significant playing time took pressure off of Rose, UK’s starter, especially with it still being so hot outside. When Smoke and Rodriguez, both redshirt freshmen, are called to step in, Gran is confident in their ability to not miss a beat.

The Wildcats plan on using all of their offensive weapons as the season goes on and believe it’ll help with the trust between Wilson and who he’s giving the ball to. 

“Yeah I mean our receiving core, our tight end core and our running backs, I mean we can do anything,” Rigg said. “With so many targets, I mean it’s hard for defenses to know who we’re going to go to, and they can’t really tell by one person because if they do, we have another target.”