Of all the positions on the 2011 Kentuc..."/>

Of all the positions on the 2011 Kentuc..."/>

The WBN Kentucky Wildcats Football Position Previews: The WRs and TEs


Of all the positions on the 2011 Kentucky football team, perhaps the one that is most concerning is the wide receivers and tight ends. The Wildcats lost Mr. Everything when Randall Cobb skipped his senior season to move on to the NFL and lost a proven playmaker with Chris Matthews’ graduation. The Cats have also struggled to get even a little production from the tight end position since the graduation of Jacob Tamme. The performances by the receivers and tight ends during this year’s spring practice sessions were less than impressive, but Kentucky has a full stable of talent at both positions to fill in the gaps. After adding Brian Adams and La’Rod King in the 2009 class, Kentucky struck out on every target at wide receiver in 2010. This forced the cats to use multiple scholarships on receiver prospects in the 2011 class, and a couple of these guys are going to be expected to contribute right away. Tight end has been a little bit of a different story though, and the Wildcats have been able to stock up quite a bit of talent at the position over the last few recruiting classes. The staff has also indicated that they intend to utilize more two-tight end sets this fall to offset not having a proven fullback on the roster, so plenty of these guys should see the field this fall. The talent at both receiver and tight end is there so it’s just going to be a matter of who is ready to step up and how many young players will be ready to take the training wheels off early.

The Projected Starters:

#16 – La’Rod King – WR – JR – 6’4 / 194 – Radcliff, KY

When you’re looking at this roster, King is the closest thing to a proven commodity you will find. He was a capable third receiver last season and finished the year with 478 yards receiving and five touchdowns. The biggest question mark for King now, is how will he handle the pressure of being the number one receiver? As a converted high school quarterback, his transition to catching the ball instead of throwing it was as seamless as you could have hoped for and for him to excel this year he will need to make another seamless transition, but into a starting role this time. King has all the measurable attributes that NFL teams look for, but he’ll need to become a leader of not only the receivers, but the entire offense to live up to his vast potential. He’s almost a guaranteed starter barring injury.

#87 – Brian Adams – WR – SO – 6’4 / 221 – Gainesville, GA

Speaking of potential, Brian Adams is really a player that could burst onto the stage this fall. Also a converted high school quarterback, Adams wasn’t able to really participate in football during his redshirt season because of health concerns. He was cleared prior to the start of last season and saw limited time as a reserve receiver while he continued to learn the position. This year he will be counted on to be a big target for Morgan Newton. Considering that Adams has the body of a tight end and the speed of a sprinter, so he’s not a bad option. He’s not guaranteed a starting spot by any means, but when you’re his size and still the fastest player at your position, odds are good you’ll see the field.

#89 – Tyler Robinson – TE – SO – 6’3 / 252 – Friendsville, TN

The competition at tight end might be the most heated of all the positions on the team, so Robinson starting is far from a done deal. It is rare though, for a two-star prospect to come in and play as a true freshman and even start by the end of the season. Robinson has the best combination of size, strength, blocking ability, and consistent hands at the tight end position right now, and that’s why I’ve penciled him in as the starter. He’s not an athletic freak that is going to blaze down the seams and score 40-yard touchdowns, but that’s not what the Kentucky offense needs him to do anyway. He can provide the running game with a capable blocker (he was recruited by several schools as a center/guard in high school) and can be a sure-handed safety valve in the flats and over the middle. Winning the starting tight end job will be no small task for Robinson, but then again there was another guy from Alcoa High School that beat some pretty long odds too.

The Main Contenders:

#85 – Gene McCaskill – WR – JR – 6’0 / 206 – Chester, SC

As yet another former high school quarterback, McCaskill has had a tumultuous career to this point. He was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2008 and was forced to contribute before he was probably ready. His sophomore season saw him grab 17 passes on the year for only 163 yards and no touchdowns. Then just as he was poised for what might have been a breakout season last year, he was injured prior to the start of the season and sat out with a redshirt. After missing spring practices this year while rehabbing, McCaskill should be a shot in the arm to the receivers if he has fully recovered. He should be in the mix for some serious playing time if not a starting job.

#23 – Darryl Collins – WR – FR – 5’11 / 203 – Gadsden, AL

A lot of UK and Alabama fans were surprised when Collins spurned the home-state Crimson Tide on National Signing Day to cast his lot with the Wildcats. He was offered by just about every school south of the Ohio River and is the type of talent that the Cats typically strike out on. Based on the current situation at receiver, it looks like Collins made a great choice. The opportunity for playing time is as good as it’s been since Kentucky graduated Keenan Burton and Stevie Johnson, and Collins just might be able to take advantage of the opportunity. As a polished receiver, Collins will have a relatively shallow learning curve to playing time and he could have a very Cobb-like impact on the offense.

#42 – Nick Melillo – TE – SR – 6’2 /226 – Louisville, KY

Melillo transferred to Kentucky from Lindenwood College in 2008 and was moved to tight end shortly after arriving. He was the projected starter last season before injuring his ankle and missing the first half of the year. Melillo is a proven receiver, but will have to demonstrate that he is a capable blocker if he wants to win the starting tight end job. He’s a savvy veteran that has overcome a lot to be where he is today, so it would be wise not to count him out just yet.

#86 – Jordan Aumiller – TE – SO – 6’4 / 231 – Danville, KY

The shadow of Jacob Tamme looms on Aumiller, fair or not. They are both from the same hometown and the comparisons started almost the minute Aumiller committed to the Cats. He’s moved around positions a little and even spent his redshirt freshman season with the linebackers before finally settling in at tight end prior to the start of the 2010 season. Once Aumiller got a grasp on the position, he went on to start eight games for the Wildcats and was even named to the SEC All-Freshman team. He’ll have his work cut out for him during camp and he’ll need to demonstrate his ability to not only catch the ball, but to block as well. Aumiller should be in the race for the starting tight end job down to the very end.

The Top Newcomers:

#81 – Rashad Cunningham – WR – FR – 6’4 / 200 – Mobile, AL

When you describe the prototypical NFL wide receiver, the final product is going to be very similar to what Rashad Cunningham brings to the game. He runs a reported 4.4 second forty-yard dash at 6’4 and had enough raw athleticism to be a standout basketball player in high school. He was probably under-recruited due to playing for a team that operated out of a run-oriented offense, but he was able to average over 26 yards a catch as a junior despite limited opportunities. Cunningham has the body and athleticism to replace a guy like Chris Matthews, and if he can get an early grasp on the offense he might be a surprise contributor this fall.

#9 – Demarco Robinson – WR – FR – 5’10 / 159 – Ellenwood, GA

Despite all of the talent Kentucky has had in the past, Robinson might be the most productive high school player to ever play for the Wildcats. As a senior in Georgia, he caught 73 passes for 1,655 yards and 27 touchdowns for Martin Luther King High School, setting a Georgia state record. There’s something to be said for taking proven winners, and Kentucky’s staff overlooked concerns about his size to go after Robinson. He may need a redshirt year to prepare his body for SEC play, but whenever Robinson gets on the field, he’s going to be one of the most electrifying players Kentucky has had in a long time.

#83 – Alvin ‘Bud’ Dupree – ATH – FR – 6’4 / 229 – Irwinton, GA

Of all the freshmen that reported to camp, Dupree might have been one of the most impressive. The athletic freak from Irwinton passes the ‘look test’ and the biggest problem the staff might have is where to put him. He is listed as an athlete on Kentucky’s roster and has considerable upside as both a tight end and as a defensive end or linebacker. If Dupree is eventually placed at tight end, he could be the best receiver Kentucky has had at the position in years.

The Best of the Rest:

#3 – Matt Roark – WR – SR – 6’5 / 214 – Acworth, GA

Following the theme of high school quarterbacks turned into receivers, Matt Roark had saw a minor breakthrough in 2010 when he made couple of big grabs early in the season. The only problem is that his production fizzled as the year progressed and he was relegated to special teams for the most part. Roark will be in the mix to start at receiver this year, but will have to show some consistency if he hopes to win the job. At the very least, he will be a standout special teams performer again for the Cats if he can stay healthy.

#19 – E.J. Fields – WR – JR – 6’1 / 196 – Frankfort, KY

One last time, we’ve have yet another converted high school quarterback vying for time at receiver. Fields has seen his career derailed by injuries for the first two seasons and was able to actually participate for the first time last year where he was one of Kentucky’s best special teams players. A solid offseason and a clean bill of health could allow Fields to skyrocket up the depth chart and display some of the talent that she showed a glimpse of during the spring. If there’s a candidate to come out of nowhere this fall and surprise a lot of people, fields has to be one of the top choices.

#27 – Aaron Boyd – WR – JR – 6’4 / 217 – Lexington, KY

It seems like the lack of production by Aaron Boyd is one of the Kentucky fane base’s favorite discussions every year. After coming to UK as the younger brother of former Cat Shane Boyd and bringing a lofty four-star ranting with him as a freshman, Boyd has been unable to crack the receiver rotation or make any real impact on the field at all. With the opportunity for playing time as good as it’s been since his freshman year, Boyd will have to step up and take the bull by the horns or risk falling behind multiple talented freshmen. A solid camp and some determination could land Boyd some considerable playing time. A poor showing during camp, and he could be off the team by December. Boyd’s future is up to him at this point.

#17 – Nik Brazley – WR – SR – 5’9 / 170 – Louisville, KY

Brazley is a senior walk-on from Male High School in Louisville and could see some action on offense for the first time this year after spending most of the 2010 campaign on special teams. He isn’t the biggest or fastest player on the team, but he’s in his fifth year with the program and should have a firm grasp on the playbook by now. If nothing else, Brazley should be a special teams staple for the Cats this season.

#8 – Josh Forrest – ATH – FR – 6’3 / 213 – Paducah, KY

Similar to Dupree, Forrest is listed as an athlete on the UK roster and shows potential on both sides of the ball. He is currently practicing as a wide receiver, but could see a move to tight end (where most recruiting services projected him) or even to the defensive side of the ball. Regardless of the position he plays, Forrest is an extremely raw player but might have the highest upside of anyone on the team. He is only in his third year of playing organized football after focusing on the basketball court for most of his high school years and still has some adjusting to do. Once he settles in, he could be one of the biggest surprises in this class.

#82 – Anthony Kendrick – TE – SO – 6’3 / 264 – Katy, TX

Kendrick should probably be listed in the ‘Main Contenders’ section, but he’s down here just to make this post easier to read. He came to Kentucky as an oversized wide receiver and has really taken to the tight end position now that he’s bulked up and gained the necessary strength to play the position. While most reports about the tight ends will focus on Aumiller, Robinson, and Melillo, Kendrick is probably the dark horse that could take everyone by surprise and win the job.

#80 – Ronnie Shields – TE – FR – 6’5 / 240 – Stone Mountain, GA

At first glance, it might appear that Shields is buried on the depth chart. If you look a little closer though, there’s almost no way he doesn’t see at least some playing time this fall. He’s got the prototypical tight end body and could be one of the beneficiaries of UK using multiple tight end sets. With the type of natural athleticism he has, he could also fill in at the slot position as well. He may be a long shot to start, but he’ll be tough to keep off of the field.

The Future:

Demarcus Sweat – WR – 6’2 / 185 – Stone Mountain, GA

It’s hard to imagine a guy that plays for Stephenson High School flying under the radar, but Sweat has managed to do just that. ESPN has graded him out with a very high three-star rating, but the other recruiting services have either not evaluated him, or graded him out pretty low. Sweat is a big-time playmaker and will be a deep threat for the Wildcats on offense. He has spped to burn and managed to average over 20 yards a catch during his junior season despite limited opportunity in the run-heavy Stephenson offense. Fans should expect to see big things from Sweat early in his career here.

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