Receivers able to ‘win games’


UK wide receiver Randall Cobb dives for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the game against Auburn at the Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday, Oct. 17 2009. The Wildcats defeated the Tigers 21-14 during their first conference win of the season. Photo by Zach Brake

Fifty thousand catches.

That’s how many footballs UK receivers were tasked with catching over the summer.

It was a number that UK head coach Joker Phillips admitted was a little staggering.

“They were a little short,” Phillips said. “Not sure if we gave them a realistic goal, but it was something that they were shooting for and it helped them in getting in there and getting after it.”

The number may not have been attained, but the message was clear: the receivers are being counted on to produce this year, in a big way.

“I think they will be much improved this year and be able to make plays,” Phillips said. “I think we’ll be able to win games at that position this year.”

More production is expected out of UK’s offense this year, and the performance of the receivers will play an integral role in just how dynamic the Cats can be.

“We’re going to take a lot more shots downfield,” junior wide receiver Randall Cobb said. “We’ve really made a goal that we should be able to score 35, 40 points a game.”

Cobb will be counted on to put up many of those points. Cobb was voted preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference as an all-purpose player after posting 39 receptions for 447 yards and rushing for 573 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.

UK’s Wildcat formation will be used as an “easy way to get the ball into Cobb’s hands,” said Phillips.

“I’m just not playing quarterback any more, that’s point blank simple,” said Cobb, who has focused on the intricacies of the receiver position. “In the past I didn’t see myself as a receiver. I was an athlete at receiver. I put in so much work in the offseason as far as my foot speed and cuts and running routes; I think I am a more polished receiver.”

But Cobb is only one part of a unit that is expected to be more explosive this year. Another is senior Chris Matthews, who had 32 receptions for 354 yards last season, his first with UK.

Matthews said he is far more prepared mentally for the game—where to line up, how to read coverages, remembering the playbook—than last year, when he said he relied on natural ability.

Lined up opposite Cobb, he expects to get plenty of opportunities to make plays – and that, in turn, can end up benefitting Cobb.

“I’m going to counteract things with Chris,” Cobb said. “If I’m making plays on the inside it’s going to open up things for him because more defenses are going to come around me. If you have people who can make plays it opens up things on the inside for me.”

After the top two, there’s a bevy of players ready to contribute. La’Rod King, Brian Adams, Aaron Boyd, E.J. Fields and Matt Roark comprise a deep supporting cast.

At the tight end position, junior Nick Melillo was on top of the depth chart before being injured, leading to freshman Jordan Aumiller being named starter.

“About two years ago, the only person doing anything was Randall,” King said. “He has help now, so you aren’t just going to be staring down Randall.”

While some may view the receiving corps as Cobb and everyone else, it can’t work that way if UK expects to produce a more potent aerial attack.

“If my name is called, I’m going to step up and make a play. That’s my only choice.”