LEXINGTON — New Kentucky receivers coach Pat Washington finally got a chance to start working on the field with his new players today when the Wildcats started spring practice.
Washington replaced Tee Martin, who left for USC. He coached with Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders at Tennessee and coached first-round NFL draft picks Joe Kent, Marcus Nash, Peerless Price, Cedrick Wilson, Donté Stallworth and Robert Meacham.
Washington, who played at Auburn, worked at Southern Mississippi last season and was slated to be at East Carolina this year before Martin left Kentucky:
Question: How did you end up back in the Southeastern Conference at Kentucky?
Washington: “It’s not always what you know, but who you know. Because Randy Sanders and myself worked together for 11 years at Tennessee, we have a good chemistry and I¿understand how he thinks and he understands how I think. The system is different than what it was at Tennessee and is a system that Joker put in place, but at the same time there are some similarities with what we did at Tennessee. I think it is important because we all think alike and are all on the same page. We are friends and we can agree and we can disagree. We can argue. We are like brothers who can argue and when it is over can go and have lunch together.”
Question: How important was it to you to come back and spend time again with Sanders?
Washington: “I never thought it would happen again to be honest with you. You never know. When Tee decided to take the job, Randy gave me a call and said he thought Tee was going to leave and would I be interested. I told him maybe and just to get Joker to call.¿He called and everything worked out well. I didn’t think it would happen again, but it did and I am very excited to be here.”
Question: Do you look at the last two years when Kentucky’s receivers have had a lot of dropped ball to evaluate returning players?
Washington: “Wasn’t (Randall) Cobb here a couple of years ago? He was pretty darn good. I saw him on TV and didn’t see any drops. If you have those drops, show them to me. I will look at it. I¿have to see if there are problems we can fix. If the guy doesn’t have the ability, then he doesn’t have the ability. But if there are things we can fix whether it be hand placement, just concentrating on the ball or something like that, we will fix those problems. I will watch to see who had problems and what they might have been.”
Question: How do you factor drops versus playmaking considering that Martin noted Cobb led the teams in drops in 2010 when he was also UK’s best playmaker?
Washington: “Did he really? I¿look at the scoreboard first. Guys like that are playmakers and don’t want to drop the ball. Instead of telling a guy to catch the ball, which is the easiest thing to do when a guy drops a ball. What I¿did is watch and see why he dropped the ball. I am a teacher on the field. I want to see if it was his hand placement, did he keep his eye on the ball. What is it he did or didn’t do to catch the football so I can teach him and hopefully he will learn from it.”
Question: What type of receiver did you prefer?
Washington: “Honestly, I¿guess a guy that has character. That is the first thing. A guy that has character, a guy that is a self motivator. I love guys that are self motivators, even though most are not. If you find one or two who are and high character and great ability, that guy will be special. I bet Cobb was that way. I really like guys like that. Not that I won’t coach that guy who is not motivated and needs that little kick in the butt every now and then to get going. I¿have no problem with that.”
Question: What do you think of the returning receivers?
Washington: “I think we are talented. I really do. We have enough talent to be successful in this conference. We have some rough edges we have to work on. We have some young guys who have not been on the field like Bookie Cobbins and Daryl Collins and guys like that. They are talented and can really help this team. I am looking forward to working with those guys.”
Question: How much adjustment lies ahead for Cobbins, and what do you work on first?
Washington: “Speed in the starts to be honest with you. Just from working out a little bit now, you can see that he is a very raw receiver. But you know what, in my experience coaching receivers, some of the best receivers I¿ever had were quarterbacks in high school. They have a good knack and didn’t know what to do with the ball in their hands, but I have no problem with that. You have to start at the beginning with those guys and not assume anything because they don’t know anything. Start from scratch and work your way up.”
Question: How is Cobbins’ attitude now that he is a full-time receiver and no longer a quarterback?
Washington: “He seems fine. It is a shock for most guys. They played quarterback and wanted to play quarterback in college and now all of a sudden they are moved. I think he came to them about the change in position rather than them going to him. But once you make that change, it is totally different. It seems simple but once you start sitting in those meeting rooms, you realize there is more to it than just going out there and catching the ball. There is a system to learn, places to line up and coverages to read. All of a sudden it becomes real frustrating. He probably will be frustrated early, but I think he will be fine.”
Question: What does this opportunity mean to you?
Washington: “I¿love this conference. I really do. I love coaching in the SEC. It’s everything in the world to me to come back in this conference and coach is probably one of the most important things to me. I am looking forward to it and I really believe Kentucky has the ability to be one of the top teams in this conference. I really do believe that. To hopefully be a part of that will be great.”
Question: What will it take for Kentucky to get over that SEC hump?
Washington: “Players. Players. It’s simple. Our basketball team, why do you think they are where they are now? Give Coach C (John Calipari) credit, he’s a good coach. But players. We have to recruit really good players. They make the difference.”
Question: Is it nice knowing that Kentucky now is the one with the winning streak against Tennessee?
Washington: “Heck yeah. I watched that game and I didn’t talk to Randy before the game. I saw a receiver (Matt Roark) at quarterback and thought they were going to do the Wildcat for a series. Then they did it another series. The second half he was still there. I was shocked to see that, but I was very excited for Randy and Joker and this staff and the Kentucky fans. I was at TCU coaching once and TCU¿had not beaten Texas in like 25 years. We beat Texas and when I walked off the field to me, it was just a win. But when I saw so many people just crying and knew it showed how important it was to people and how important that game was. I bet there were some tears in Kentucky fans’ eyes after the game, too.”