By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
The start of the college football season is less than two weeks away. Unfortunately for the University of Kentucky football team preseason preparation has not gone according to plan. So far UK has lost two key players in two weeks due to injury. Not a great start to what many are hoping will be a memorable season.
The good news is that had this same injury bug hit UK in years one through four of the Mark Stoops era it would have been tough to overcome. It will still be tough to overcome but now the coaching staff has been able to build some depth on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
In fact it appears that four freshman wide receivers will most likely find their way on to the playing field this season. That piece of information from the coaches made me wonder how productive freshmen wide receivers had been in the past at Kentucky.
Here’s what I found out. Of the top 20 best career yardage receivers at UK only three had freshmen seasons where they provided significant impact to the team through passes caught and yardage gained.
Those three receivers – Derek Abney, Craig Yeast and Ryan Timmons – all had freshmen seasons that produced over 300 yards receiving. Derek Abney – an SEC All-Freshman selection in 2000 had 40 receptions for 413 yards and 3 touchdowns. Craig Yeast – with no SEC Freshman team selected in 1995 – caught 24 passes for 337 yards and two TDs. Ryan Timmons also performed well as a freshman with 32 receptions for 338 yards and two touchdowns.
All three receivers were below six feet tall, slightly built but extremely quick with exceptional 40-yard dash times. All had the ability to work out of the slot, catch balls in traffic and find a seam down the field that would allow them to go for long gains with each reception.
So how do the four freshmen wide receivers that have been selected to play this year — Lynn Bowden, Josh Ali, Clevan Thomas and Isaiah Epps — compare to the top performing freshmen of the previous years?
Physically they are similar in size and stature — three of the four are around six feet tall and 185 pounds — and have the speed and quickness to play in the slot. Based on their performances in high school they also have the ability to find an open seam down the field and take the ball in for a touchdown on any given throw.
Knowing that UK is looking to fill the voids left by Jeff Badet’s departure to Oklahoma and Dorian Baker’s serious ankle injury these four freshmen might be just what the doctor ordered to help take the sting out of the early season injuries.