Vaught's Views: Wildcats go deep at receiver

April 15, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - If there is one priority for Joker Phillips this spring, it's developing a deeper receiving corps to help offset the loss of Derek Abney.

Phillips, UK's receivers coach, thinks even without Abney, UK's top receiver the last two years, the Wildcats should still have receivers capable of making big plays.

"I think the receivers will be deeper. I'm not sure about better, but I know we'll be deeper," Phillips said. "We have a lot more guys who can go in and help. We have big guys who are physical.

"Potentially we have guys who can make plays, and I mean big plays. I am not talking about catching the ball and turning it into a 10-yard play. I am talking about guys who can stick it (in the end zone) from 70 (yards out)."


Kentucky's most experienced receiver is senior Tommy Cook, who has 63 catches for 796 yards and seven touchdowns. Next comes junior Glenn Holt Jr., who has 18 catches for 195 yards and three touchdowns. Then there is sophomore Keenan Burton, who caught 20 passes for 221 yards and two scores as a true freshman in 2003.

Phillips knows what those three can do. He knows their strengths and weaknesses. That's why he's more interested in the development of junior college transfer Scott Mitchell and redshirt freshmen Jacob Tamme and John Logan this spring. Phillips realizes those three receivers can add depth, and big plays, for the Cats this season.

"Those are guys that I have to bring along," Phillips said. "We have to make sure they understand the position and the offense because if they do, all three of them can really help us."

Tamme has knack for big plays

Tamme, the former Boyle County all-state receiver, has always had a knack for making big plays, which is one reason he was on four straight state championship high school teams. He's impressed UK coaches with his ability to catch any ball close to him, and his size - 6-5, 225 pounds - is something head coach Rich Brooks really likes.

"Tamme, in my opinion, is a young Scott Mitchell," Phillips said. "He's big, he's physical. He's not quite as fast as some other receivers. But the taller you are and the bigger you are, the slower you can be.

"He's from a football factory over there at Boyle County. He understands how to play the game. That's how they have won all they have. He has talent and he knows how to play. That's a nice combination."

Wait. There's more from Phillips.

"Jacob has as good of ball skills as I've ever coached," Phillips said. "His eye-hand coordination is unbelievable. He just has a natural eye for being able to locate the ball and pluck it out of the air."

Logan's speed is his strength

Logan's strength is his speed. He's run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds and was considered one of the nation's top receivers coming out of Lexington Catholic.

"The thing we have to do with him is get the ball to him in a hurry and let him make a play to build his confidence up, and then throw the ball down the field to him," Phillips said. "He could be the guy who catches short passes and turns it into a big one. He could be a screen (pass) guy. But he also has to be a guy who can stretch the field. We have to be able to raise up and throw the ball deep to him. He has to be our Derek Abney. He's got to be the guy who can turn a short throw into a big gainer."

Mitchell has ability to catch ball in traffic

Mitchell is not quite as tall (6-3) as Tamme or as fast as Logan. But he's already shown he has the ability to catch the ball in traffic and the speed to make big plays. He's also shown no qualms about being a physical blocker.

"Mitchell will hopefully be a guy who can catch intermediate passes, have defensive backs bounce off him and after they do, he is a guy who can score for us from anywhere," Phillips said.

Phillips hopes to have a better feel for what all his receivers can do by the time UK's Blue-White game ends April 24.

"The first thing I am trying to find out this spring is who has knowledge of the position and the offense," Phillips said. "Then I want to see who has a chance to make plays because successful teams have to have receivers who are playmakers. I think we have some, but that's what I want to find out for sure.

"The good thing about this group is that they are very competitive. When you are as deep as we are, or at least I hope we are, you better show up every day or somebody will push past you. I think that might be the best thing we have going for us."

If he's right, then a deeper receiving corps could also possibly turn out to be a better receiving corps even without Abney next season.

Central Kentucky News Articles