No Room for Selfishness in Deep Receiving Corps

All camp long, Kentucky’s coaches raved about the depth that has been developed at wide receiver.

The positives of that are obvious.

Competition brings out the best in everyone. Opponents won’t be able to focus on any single man. The Wildcats, in theory, should be able to withstand injuries inevitable in a 12-game regular season. 

But there’s one hurdle that comes with it.

“There’s one football and there’s going to be a time when Juice (Garrett Johnson) and Jeff Badet catch two balls in a game and you know what?” head coach of the offense and co-offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. “The next week they’re going to catch eight.”

The man at the controls of the offense – Drew Barker – will be the one distributing the ball, but he isn’t going to worry himself with tallying targets and trying to even them out.

“I’m going to go through my progression,” Barker said. “If I think the guy’s open, I’m going to throw it to him. I’m not really looking at, ‘Oh, I’ve thrown four balls to Garrett; now I need to throw one to Dorian (Baker).’ I’m just going through my read. Whoever’s open is going to get the ball.”

That’s the exact approach Gran is looking for. That leaves it to the receivers to deal with it.

“How are they going to act after they catch two?” Gran said. “How are they going to act after they catch one and we win the game? Then there’s going to be that time. Maybe you lose that game. What’s our reaction going to be? That’s what I’m looking forward to. You’ve got to move on.

Johnson, UK’s leading receiver from a season ago, gets it. He’s been through the ups and downs before and believes he and his teammates will do just fine coping with a quiet game here or there, as long as the team is succeeding.

“That’s just part of it,” Johnson said. “Like he said, that’s definitely the truth. We got plenty of receivers that can make plays and that have been making plays. For that to continue over to Saturday, that won’t be a problem.”

Perhaps the best example of the give-and-take at the wide receiver position is with Baker and redshirt freshman Tavin Richardson. The two play the same outside position and Baker started out fall camp a standout, but a minor injury has sidelined him of late. Richardson has capably filled the void.

“It’s awesome,” Gran said. “It’s the great thing that we have right now, right? Right now, Tavin’s the guy. You just got to move forward. You can’t worry about it. You’ve had some competition and those guys get the opportunity. He’s made the most of it. He’s gone out here and competed and so I’m proud for him. I really am.”

What will happen Saturday, however, is unknown. That’s what has Gran so fired up.

“They have bought in,” Gran said. “And Saturday night there’s going to be some times when it’s not going to be so fun. There’s going to be some ups and downs. That’s what I can’t wait for: How are we going to respond to the downs?”