UK football: Robinson showing more consistency this year

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 13, 2012 

Demarco Robinson was a senior standout in high school, setting a Georgia record for yardage. Kentucky coaches say he's finally living up to his promise.

MATT GOINS — Herald-Leader

Demarco Robinson caught 73 passes as a senior in high school.

He turned 27 of them into touchdowns and set a Georgia state record for yardage with 1,655.

But when he walked onto Kentucky's campus last season, the wide receiver felt lost.

"I was frustrated," the sophomore said of last season, which included a not-so-eye-popping five catches for 17 yards in seven games.

Robinson learned, as most freshmen do, that the leap from high school football to college football is not easy.

"Last year, Demarco showed flashes of what he could do," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "It's why we got our hopes up a little bit and tried to get him in situations, give him opportunities to do things, but the consistency wasn't there."

The Kentucky coaches kept waiting for the proverbial light to come on for their freshman last season.

Did it ever, Coach Joker Phillips was asked last week?

"No," he answered flatly.

In fact, Robinson was so inconsistent last season that when he caught nine passes for 146 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Blue-White game this spring, Phillips still had some doubts.

"He made a play in every scrimmage that we have and then you'd kind of have to wonder if he's really there," Phillips said.

It wasn't until the 5-foot-10 wide receiver's spring grades posted that Phillips thought the player finally had this college thing figured out.

"He felt really good about himself," Phillips said. "Not only had he accomplished things on the field, but he accomplished things off the field also."

Robinson said he stayed in Lexington for both summer sessions to try to stay up on his school work and learn the playbook better. He aced both of his summer classes.

He started carrying himself differently.

"Before, he was a guy who would drop his head, didn't want to look at you in the eye, now he's one of those guys who shakes your hand firmly, communicates with you the right way," Phillips said.

The coaches finally saw the light click on and are talking Robinson up as the future of the offense.

"He's definitely a guy who's growing up enough you feel comfortable enough talking about him," Phillips said. "He can handle things we're saying about him."

At least five times this pre-season, Phillips has talked about Robinson becoming a "guy you can depend on."

Robinson sure hopes so. He thinks he can help an offense that struggled to get anything going last season, getting just 12 touchdowns through the air.

The wide receiver and likely punt and kick returner wants to be the playmaker that he was in high school, something of which Georgia legends are made.

He has one wish for the season: "Give me the ball. Give me the ball in open space and I'll try to make something happen."

Practice report

At this time last summer, offensive coordinator Randy Sanders wasn't feeling great about his team's inexperience. He hinted around that there could be some issues, especially early on.

He has a different outlook going into this season.

"I definitely feel better," he said on Monday. "It doesn't mean we're ready to go out there and kick everybody's butts and score a ton of points. But I definitely feel way better about it right now than I did last year."

No big news came out of the Cats' practice on Monday. There was no quarterback announcement. There will be no media availability on Tuesday (pool party after morning practice). The soonest it could come would be Wednesday, but it may not be until after Saturday's second full scrimmage.

"All four of those guys did some good things," Coach Joker Phillips said of his QB contenders Maxwell Smith, Morgan Newton, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow. "We've got to give it a little more time to figure out if there's a little bit more separation."

Now that he's had a chance to look at film from Saturday's scrimmage, Phillips said he was impressed with La'Rod King offensively, saying the senior veteran "competed his tail off, but we expect that. ... He's playing really fast."

The head coach also liked the way his two true freshmen running backs, Dyshawn Mobley and Justin Taylor, were able to move the pile.

Sanders had more to add on that: "It's been really since before I got here since Kentucky had a back like that. It's nice to have those guys; we're not going to revamp our offense on what they can do, but they bring another dimension."

They will be impressive, once they "learn their reads and their footwork and their protections," Sanders said. "They really have a chance to be special, but they're still very much a work in progress."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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