UK hopes spring will solve wide receiver uncertainty

Going into spring practice, football head coach Rich Brooks was a little superstitious about his current wide receiver depth chart. Both junior Dickey Lyons Jr. and junior DeMoreo Ford had offseason surgeries on the patellar tendon, which connects the knee cap to the shin bone.

Brooks hoped that what seemed to be a thin receiving unit would flesh itself out this spring.

“DeMoreo looked quicker and faster than he’s looked in over a year and a half,” Brooks said on the first day of spring practice. “Hopefully, knock on wood, the procedure has had some very positive effects on their patellar tendonitis.”

But during the first Saturday practice this spring, Ford went down with an injury to that same patellar tendon, possibly sidelining the receiver for much of the season. With Lyons being the only returning veteran receiver who saw major action, the injury to Ford further complicates building the receiving unit from a mysterious set of fresh faces at the wideout position.

Despite the unknowns, Brooks said this year’s lack of depth is not the worst he has experienced at UK.

“Nothing is as bad as it was several years ago,” Brooks said. “We have more players and more depth, but we also have a lot of work to do.”

With wide receivers Keenan Burton, Steve Johnson and tight end Jacob Tamme moving on after graduation, there is a huge offensive void for the Cats to fill when the season begins. Lyons is expected to shoulder much of the load, but UK is looking for increased production from freshmen Kyrus Lanxter and Anthony Mosley. Sophomore E.J. Adams has also moved from cornerback to wide receiver this spring.

During UK’s first spring scrimmage Saturday, Adams caught four passes for 167 yards and a touchdown, including a 62-yard catch. But even after putting up high numbers, Brooks said Adams is still far from polished.

“He’s a mess,” Brooks said. “He has great ability… but he has to learn to practice harder.”

If there is a hidden gem in the bunch, it is Lanxter, Brooks said. Having a number of more experienced players limited Lanxter’s playing time, Brooks said. He added that he expects a breakout season from the freshman.

“This is his year,” Brooks said. “This is his time. I think he can line up and play all three receiver spots. He’s got the knowledge to do that; he’s got the ability to do that.”

For Lyons, the situation surrounding this year’s receiving corps is not much different from two years ago, when Lyons emerged as a hidden gem among a group that many thought had only one real threat in Burton.

“Two years ago no one gave me a chance,” Lyons said. “Look now, it’s the same for all these guys, they have to step up. It doesn’t matter how good one person is.”

Lanxter said the one thing this group has going for them is that they gel much better than last year’s group. Every weekend, Lyons, Mosley and Lanxter hang out together, Lanxter said. And while faces may be new, the playbook has remained relatively the same for the freshman.

“Same system,” Lanxter said. “All we have to do is make plays.”

Making plays is what offensive coordinator Joker Phillips said would be key for a “really talented group” looking to make an impact offensively this year.

“We need to get production,” Phillips said. “Kyrus, Mosley and E.J. have talent. Now we have to see how they do on Saturdays.”