By LARRY VAUGHT
I’m still not quite sure how to process USA Today ranking Toledo ahead of Kentucky, a team that won 10 games and beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl last year, going into this season.
It was just another sign of disrespect for the Kentucky football team and another reason for players like junior tight end Justin Rigg to want to prove the naysayers wrong.
“I feel like as a team it is motivating to all of us,” said Rigg. “We are coming off a 10-win season and all some people are saying is that we lost a bunch of guys. We will have a bunch of guys on the team that were on the team that helped push us to win 10 games. Our team chemistry is still there. We will have guys that can play football.”
Riggs and his teammates get to show that starting Aug. 31 when Kentucky hosts Toledo to open the season.
One player that Kentucky did lose was C.J. Conrad, a three-year starter at tight end. Kentucky has a lot of talented tight ends but Rigg is the most experienced and likely starter for game one.
“I want to step into that leadership role and kind of be that guy that they take after,” Rigg said. “I want the younger guys to push me and I do that for them and prove I can be a big leader.
“C.J. was one of the biggest leaders on the team last year. He showed us all on and off the field how to be that good character guy and then when you are on the field be the absolute best player you can be.”
Rigg admits this is the deepest UK has been at tight end since he got to Kentucky.
“There are eight of us where in camp before we would two or three guys. The depth will give us a lot more chances to throw to the tight end,” Rigg said.
Coach Mark Stoops keeps talking about Kentucky’s “young” talent at tight end, words that only push Rigg to be better.
“I love it because it tells me that I have those guys behind me who can help fill that role, too. They are pushing me to the best I can be as I am pushing them, too,” he said.
Just don’t think for a moment that Rigg wants to be anything other than UK’s No. 1 tight end.
“You ask anybody that. They want to be that guy but there has got to be two or three tight ends on any football team that play. All of us pushing each other gives us all a chance to play,” Rigg said.