By LARRY VAUGHT
Often when a Kentucky football player shows he can be a special talent, I like to go back and see what former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard had to say about the player when he was recruited.
Maggard offered his opinions for years while he was still in the Kentucky National Guard because recruiting was one of his passions. He became a recruiting analysts for Kentucky Sports Radio and then joined the Kentucky football staff and had to stop talking about recruits.
But go back to the 2017 recruiting class when UK signed Ft. Lauderdale recevier Bryce Oliver. He had scholarship offers from N.C. State, Louisville, Syracuse, Rutgers and more.
Maggard said Oliver, a multisport athlete, had “great body/speed” and called him a physical specimen.
“High ceiling. Won’t be an unfamiliar name for very long,” Maggard said when Oliver signed.
Guess what? Maggard sure seems to be correct just like he was about Josh Allen, Logan Stenberg and others.
Oliver had a terrific 32-yard touchdown catch in UK’s 38-24 win over Toledo last week and likely will be targeted more by quarterback Terry Wilson this week against Eastern Michigan — or should be.
He literally took a slight underthrown pass away from a Toledo defender at about the 2-yard line, broke free easily and scored. It’s the kind of play UK receivers once made for quarterback Andre Woodson and that only gave him more courage to make difficult throws because he was confident his receiver would make the catch.
“Bryce is learning to play tough and learning to play big and we’re encouraged,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “We feel like he’s got a bright future.”
What impressed me even more, though, was the special teams tackle he made on punt coverage. The Toledo returner reversed direction to try and avoid Oliver but the UK redshirt freshman ran him down from behind to make the stop.
Stoops — and UK’s other coaches — noticed.
“You got to love somebody that has that attitude and is willing to be very selfless and give it everything he has on special teams. That’s the fastest way to gain respect from your teammates and coaches, to make special teams plays like that,” Stoops said.
“And then he showed up on the field and he made a great catch, competitive catch at an important time when it was second and long, second and what? 13, 14 or whatever on that catch. So it was important.”
It was just part of a strong showing by UK’s receivers that had Stoops feeling solid about that position.
“We had been seeing signs of that through spring and through camp. And I think these guys are working hard. And you saw some competitive catches and some guys that have some talent and we need to continue to grow,” Stoops said Saturday.