Kentucky senior Boyd finally ready to make good on promise

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 4, 2012 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

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  • Saturday

    Kent State at Kentucky

    When: 7:30 p.m.

    TV: Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast

When Pat Washington arrived on Kentucky's campus, he didn't want any background information on the wide receivers he was hired to coach.

He didn't want to see past statistics or hear about past transgressions or past recruiting rankings.

If other coaches thought a kid was too slow or too lazy or too anything, Washington didn't want to know about it.

"I asked no questions about any of the receivers," Washington said on Tuesday. "I wanted to see it for myself. Sometimes others' opinions might be based on two plays."

Other opinions said former Henry Clay standout Aaron Boyd was a highly rated wide receiver — the No. 1 prospect in Kentucky and one of the top 40 in the nation — that never amounted to much.

A lot of flash and promise, but all he had to show for it in three seasons was six catches for 51 yards.

Washington saw more.

"I just watched him in the spring, and what he was was consistent," said Washington, who replaced Tee Martin when the coach left for Southern California in the off-season. "He showed me that he could actually be where he was supposed to be and do what he was supposed to do and be there consistently."

That hasn't always been the Aaron Boyd way.

As a freshman in 2008 he played in 11 games and started one, making five catches for 46 yards. In the two seasons after that, he made just one reception for 5 yards.

But slowly, the coaches have seen him grow and improve.

"They don't always grow up as fast as we like," head coach Joker Phillips said. "That's why I'm so happy for him that he has an opportunity to make some plays. He'll have a good year for us and we need him to."

Phillips has gained so much confidence in Boyd that he named him a starter for the Kent State game on Saturday. The coach said he was proud of the 6-foot-4, 214-pound senior, who had three catches for 36 yards in Kentucky's loss at Louisville on Sunday.

The head coach, a former wide-out himself, said Boyd is willing to do the little things — like blocking — that earn receivers playing time.

"He's done everything we've ever asked of him," Phillips said. "He's shut his mouth and started to play. He deserves to be the starter this week."

Earning that start was big for Boyd.

"I've always dreamed about it," he said. "It's all I could think about was coming and making plays and trying to help my team. I'm grateful for this opportunity. And I'm excited to try to keep it going."

He wasn't sure the opportunity was going to come.

"It's something that most people can't understand," Boyd said. "I just had to figure out what was most important for me — in life. I'm getting things together now, and I'm just really grateful."

Boyd was one of 11 UK players to catch a pass from quarterback Maxwell Smith on Sunday. He was one of nine players to catch more than one.

He's part of a group that hopes to help the UK offense turn the corner this season after significant struggles last season.

"We know we have a bunch of guys who can catch the ball who are talented and were ready to show it," said senior receiver La'Rod King, who had a career-best eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. "I feel like our strength is our depth now. The young guys are on board and they can jump in any time. We have a dynamic offense."

Names like Demarco Robinson or redshirt freshman Daryl Collins or true freshmen A.J. Legree or DeMarcus Sweat might eventually overtake Boyd on the depth chart. Or they might just start playing alongside him.

Boyd has been criticized for a lack of speed, and some thought he wasn't cut out to be a Southeastern Conference receiver. But in the game on Sunday, Washington saw something else.

"He played fast in the game," he said. "I watched the game and thought it was E.J. (Fields) or (DeMarcus) Sweat one time I'm watching and I'm like, 'That's freaking Aaron.'

"We kid a lot about it, but he's fast enough. Is he the fastest player we have? No, but he's fast enough."

Depth chart updates

The UK depth chart released Tuesday included few changes from Sunday's game at Louisville.

Malcolm McDuffen moved ahead of Tyler Brause at one of the linebacker spots. Freshmen Demarcus Sweat (wide receiver) and Dy'Shawn Mobley (running back) were added as the third options at their positions.

On special teams, Craig McIntosh has surpassed Joe Mansour on kickoff duties. Coaches liked the look he gave them on the onside kick, Phillips said.

"He actually won the job with consistency," Phillips said of McIntosh, who is also responsible for field goals and extra points. "He's more consistent than Joe. He has a strong, strong leg."

Staff writer Ben Roberts contributed to this report. Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241.Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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