Unproven receivers want to show worth



Since Jan. 9, 2011, the day after UK’s loss to Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl, the UK offense has been fighting an uphill battle.

With former Cats receivers Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews taking 145 receptions for 1,942 yards and 16 touchdowns with them as they exited through the doors of Nutter Training Center, head coach Joker Phillips was left to wonder who his new starting quarterback would throw the ball to.

Since that day, plenty of new faces have answered that question for Phillips.

The strong force of the wide receiving corps in 2011 will be La’Rod King, who leads all current receivers with 46 receptions for 620 yards and six touchdowns in his career. King, a junior, is the most experienced wideout on the team, and has used that to become more of a leader on offense through his play.

“I wasn’t happy with La’Rod leaving out of the spring. I challanged him over the summer, and I don’t know if it was pressure. I didn’t know how he would respond to it, but he responded to it in a great way,” Tee Martin, UK wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator, said. “He made some plays in summer camp that he didn’t make in the spring, plays that I wanted him to make in the spring, that I wanted to be successful during the spring. He came out in camp and made some big plays for us.”

Joining King on the outside are a variety of different receivers. Gene McCaskill, like King, brings a veteran presence to a relatively inexperienced position and brings speed to extend the field deep. Brian Adams and E.J. Fields will also use speed to their advantage within the offense in 2011, and newcomers Demarco Robinson and Darryl Collins will look to explode when they get their opportunities to play.

“With the talent we have in our (locker) room, there will be a lot of competition, and a lot of people getting better everyday,” Adams said. “We are really excited about it and just how far we can develop as a receiving corps and bounce things off each other and really develop as a group.”

Despite retaining much of the production from the tight end position a year ago, Phillips and his staff still found that the job was one of the least secure on the team entering camp. Jordan Aumiller led all tight ends last season with 18 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown. The rest of the tight ends, Tyler Robinson, Anthony Kendrick and Nick Melillo, combined for 15 catches for  113 yards and a score in 2010.

As the start of school approached and summer camp drew to a close, Phillips seemingly endorsed him as his tight end to begin the season.

“Jordan Aumiller has been as consistent a player as anybody we’ve had, not just at the tight end position, on the football team,” Phillips said. “After him, Tyler Robinson has been out, the rest of them have been hit and miss. After Jordan its been every other day somebody moves up, somebody moves down.”

With few recognizable names with plenty of talent, whoever takes the field at wide receiver on Sept. 1 will not be trying to continue the legacy of players like Cobb and Matthews, but instead open a new page in UK’s offense.

“I feel good about (the wide receivers) going into the first game,” Martin said. “I thought they had an impressive training camp. The consistency I was looking for coming out of the spring, for the most part, got a lot better. Really good at catching the ball, a lot better at blocking, and you can see when they improved they gained more confidence.”