Wide receivers key to Cats’ play

By J.D. Williams

In a perfect world the ends would meet.

If Rich Brooks had it his way, the UK offenses of the last two seasons would collide with this year’s stingy defensive unit, creating a team that could be singing “I’ve Got Georgia on My Mind” without being laughed off the stage.

But Commonwealth Stadium is not a prefect world, and Brooks has to work with what he’s got, which is a team steps behind the talent level of Florida and Georgia, two favorites with a running head-start to represent the Southeastern Conference East in Atlanta at the Championship a few months down the road.

The gap is obvious and comes as no surprise. Making up ground is the area that will challenge UK’s offensive coaching staff the most as the season continues to unfold.

Last weekend against Norfolk State, Brooks unveiled true freshman Randall Cobb under center. The positive results after the quarterback switch were almost instant. But the success of Cobb or fellow quarterback Mike Hartline, a sophomore, won’t single handedly determine if the Cats reach their potential this season — the skilled position that matters is mainly at wide receiver.

Brooks said the coaching staff anticipated using a two-quarterback system this season, a system he used while coaching at Oregon when the situation presented itself. But whether Cobb scrambles out the pocket and runs until his feet go numb, or Hartline stands behind the O-line and launches the ball down the field doesn’t mean a thing if no one is getting open to make catches.

Getting the ball to the receiver is extremely high on the “Quarterback To Do List,” from Pop Warner to retirement — except in those Wing Formation offenses with three halfbacks in the game, which considering the depth UK has at running back would be interesting to see.

But in the traditional offense UK runs, two more playmakers at wide receiver would benefit the Cats well beyond their overloaded backfield.

After a 2-0 start to the season, Brooks is far from satisfied. Despite the numbers senior wide out Dicky Lyons Jr. is putting up, Brooks made it clear that the Cats need better performances from other receivers.

Brooks pointed out the miscommunication between the quarterbacks and the receivers and wrong route running in the Cats win over Norfolk State. Hartline would have been a little more pleasing if he hooked up with junior wide receiver E.J. Adams for a big play instead of an incompletion.

Earlier this week Brooks said it would be better if “E.J. gets the check and doesn’t run the out route when Hartline is throwing it down the field where he’s (Adams) suppose to be…it makes Hartline look pretty stupid throwing the ball 30 yards from where the guy is.

“It’s a combination of things. But certainly, if we can get the ball moving, move the chains and score some points everyone will feel better and then maybe we can move forward and have our two-quarterback system and do the things we want to with it.”

If the receivers and the quarterbacks can get on the same page in the playbook, UK will have an opportunity to spread the field and unload an offense oozing with potential. A consistent passing game in addition to the overstocked backfield will give opposing defensive coordinators headaches. Just imagine the possibilities and all the tricks UK offensive coordinator Joker Phillips could pull out just to amuse himself.

Not to say that the offense would be prefect, but at least a few loose ends would meet.