Without a doubt, the biggest news to hit Kentucky football in the past year was the announcement that wide receivers coach Tee Martin was leaving the team to join Lane Kiffin’s staff at USC. Martin had been the team’s ace recruiter in his time in Lexington and was generally thought of as the team’s most promising young coach and biggest star. Most Kentucky fans would have loved the prospect of Martin being the Wildcats’ head coach one day.
Despite his almost universal fan support, Martin’s final year with Kentucky saw his group of veteran receivers struggle mightily and eventually become the weakest link on the Wildcat offense, if not the entire team. With a senior (Matt Roark), four juniors (LaRod King, E.J. Fields, Gene McCaskill, and Aaron Boyd), a sophomore (Brian Adams) and three talented freshmen (Daryl Collins, Demarco Robinson, and Rashad Cunningham), his depth chart had plenty of bodies to move around, but despite all of the five upperclassmen having played as true freshmen in the SEC, the group consistently underperformed and became the target of massive fan backlash as the season progressed. As Kentucky’s offense continued to fall down the national rankings, the drops continued to pile up and mistakes continued to happen until the season ended and the Wildcats had the #118 (out of 120) offense in the country. Possibly more telling, Kentucky’s passing offense was #116 in the country and rated behind teams running the wishbone like Georgia Tech and Air Force. The worst statistic regarding Kentucky’s anemic passing offense in 2011? The Wildcats ranked #120, or DEAD LAST IN THE COUNTRY in yards per attempt with a measly 4.8 ypa.
Martin was known as a top notch recruiter as well, and was assigned to many of the team’s highest profile targets. His efforts in the 2010 and 2011 signing classes paid some dividends, but most of Kentucky’s highest profile SIGNEES (not targets) were recruited by other coaches. In the last two classes (2011 and 2012), the biggest recruiters actually ended up being Chuck Smith, Mike Cassity, Greg Nord, and Steve Pardue. Without Martin, Kentucky’s current recruiting class is shaping up to an almost identical national ranking (at this point) as the past three classes did.
So is this post all about bashing Tee Martin?
No, that’s in no way the point of all of this. The point is, that he was regarded as Kentucky’s best position coach and the evidence just doesn’t back that up. The hiring of Pat Washington, while met with almost no fanfare or excitement, has paid immediate results to the offense and Kentucky is ranked a much more respectable 13th in the country right now in passing yards and Maxwell Smith is 17th in the country in completion percentage. Sure, Maxwell Smith has improved from his freshman season and Randy Sanders has tweaked his offensive philosophy, but fans need to give Pat Washington the credit he deserves as well. This guy who is “too old” to relate to today’s players has rocked the boat and changed the status quo at Kentucky in only a few short months. We’ve seen dramatic improvements at wide receiver in the first two games and before anyone notes the competition, remember that the Western Kentucky and Central Michigan games were nightmares for the receivers last year. Washington was the BIGGEST addition to the team this past offseason and it really isn’t even close. Dear god, Aaron Boyd was even the consensus player of the game last week.
What Washington has done with a group of receivers that have been oft-injured, under productive, and lightly regarded has been remarkable.
Here’s to you Pat.