Kentucky football looking to La'Rod King for leadership

jsmith3@herald-leader.comApril 7, 2012 

  • Blue-White Game

    When: 6 p.m. April 21

    Where: Commonwealth Stadium

There comes a point when coaches keep coaching and players stop listening.

"Coaches, we become choo-choo trains," new wide receivers coach Pat Washington said on Saturday. "When I grew up there was a train right by my house. When I was young, the train used to wake me up, but as I got older, the train would come right by and I'd never hear it. That's what happens as coaches, we coach and coach and coach and coach, and eventually maybe the kids don't hear you as much."

That point, when the roar of the train stops startling players, is when having true leaders on Kentucky's football team will be most important.

And other times like in the summer, when coaches aren't allowed to keep players on track, having a leader will be important.

That's when having a senior like La'Rod King will be key, Washington said when asked about UK's returning wide receiver, who caught 40 passes for 598 yards and seven scores last season.

It's probably part of the reason that head coach Joker Phillips made public comments early in UK's spring practice about the 6-foot-4 former North Hardin standout needing to become more of a leader.

The coach said he has seen some marked improvement since he called King out early in the spring season.

"He did try to pick things up," Phillips said on Friday. "I'm just needing La'Rod to be more of a leader. Sometimes leaders try to lead vocally and then their play, they're not leading with their play. I thought La'Rod wasn't practicing what he preached and I thought it was important for him to see that I was seeing that."

After one of several spring scrimmages on Saturday, King said he's always conscious of players looking up to him.

"It's about making plays and keeping confidence up," he said.

King said he made some big plays in the scrimmage on Saturday, but he has been battling soreness in his back this spring.

King has seen good things from some of Kentucky's young receivers.

"I've seen great stuff from the young guys," he said. "There's a mistake here or there, but you expect that. The older guys have been trying to teach when we can."

Washington has been impressed with the work ethic of the group so far. When asked about some of the younger receivers who had impressed him, he had a quick answer.

"Demarco Robinson and Darryl Collins, those two guys, in particular, are doing some good things," Washington said. "They're learning still. ... Those two guys are catching my eye right now."

Phillips also mentioned that duo last week. He expects Robinson will become a key return specialist for UK. The Cats have been "trying to find that since (Randall Cobb) left," he said.

Phillips reiterated that Saturday after the scrimmage.

"We have got to get the ball to Demarco Robinson," the head coach said. "He's a guy that can help us."

After spring practice ends in a two weeks, the young players like Robinson and Collins are going to have to continue to grow, which is where someone like King becomes key.

"His real challenge is going to be this summer," Washington said. "His real challenge is to organize the guys, get them out there to continue doing what we're doing this spring, to keep on them the way a coach would."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog:,

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