Offense looking to find playmakers in WR group
As Kentucky enters its fifth day of training camp – its first with full pads – there are several storylines of improved depth entering the third year of the Mark Stoops era.
The UK wide receivers are seeking to replace 40 percent of their receptions from 2014 after the departure of senior targets Demarco Robinson, Javess Blue, Braylon Heard, Steven Borden, Ronnie Shields and D.J. Warren.
The Wildcats return their leader in receptions from 2014, junior wide receiver Ryan Timmons, who totaled 45 catches. A native of Frankfort, Ky., Timmons finished his sophomore season with 536 yards and two touchdowns.
“He's good with the ball in his hands,” Kentucky offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said about Timmons. “You got some guys that just when you put the ball in their hands, they tend to make people miss and get positive yards. So he's one of those guys. He's been really consistent.”
In addition to Timmons, UK boasts the return of a trio of sophomore wide receivers who are certain to benefit from a freshman season in the rugged Southeastern Conference. Dorian Baker, Blake Bone and Garrett Johnson each became go-to weapons for the UK offense in their debut seasons.
Early in training camp, Johnson – who had 22 catches and two TDs as a freshman – has earned praise from Dawson as a versatile performer who will be able to have a positive impact.
“I mean, Juice (Johnson) is a good player,” Dawson said. “He's making plays every day. (Timmons) and Juice have been extremely consistent at slot receiver, so I’ve been proud of those guys.”
With Kentucky’s offensive attack, a premium is getting the football into the hands of its playmakers. In his first season as UK’s offensive coordinator after moving from the same post at West Virginia, Dawson is seeking for a diversity of weapons to emerge.
“Ultimately the ball finds the best guy a lot,” Dawson said. “It's not like we sit there and tell them, 'Look, you need to throw it to this guy,' but they're not dumb either. They're going to try to get the best guys the ball, so hopefully we are spreading it around to running backs and receivers. That's when you're the best, because they can't really hone in on where you're going with it.”
With Kentucky putting on the pads for the first time in training camp on Tuesday, Stoops was proud of the effort of his squad in its first chance to show physicality, but focused on preparing for its first challenge on Sept. 5 vs. UL Lafayette at The New Commonwealth Stadium.
“Really, better today,” Stoops said. “First full-padded practice and got some good physical work in that we needed. So we're getting better. I don't know if either side was great; offensively they did some good things, just putting in some play passes off of some of the run game. So (we’re) just starting to piece some things together. Still a work in progress, as you know, but overall getting some good work done.”