UK football notebook: Lots of opportunity for incoming receivers in Kentucky's new offense

Herald-Leader Staff WriterFebruary 9, 2013 

Recruits don't need an advanced math class to figure out there's a good chance they will play early (and often) in Kentucky's new pass-happy offense run by former Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown.

In eight of 12 games last season, Red Raiders quarterbacks connected with 10-plus receivers. There were 17 players with multiple receptions, including 11 receivers with 15 or more.

Now consider that Kentucky returns only four true wide receivers who caught a pass for the Cats last season: Demarco Robinson, Daryl Collins, A.J. Legree and DeMarcus Sweat.

And of those, Robinson is the top returning receiver at 28 catches for 297 yards and zero scores.

That leaves lots of room for the newcomers.

"You can add it all up and say, 'Hey, common sense tells me that I've got a great opportunity to play here immediately,'" wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord said on Wednesday.

"And it's the truth. We're still not where we need to be. What a great selling point for next year's 2014 guys. To say, 'Hey, our numbers are still lower than where we'd like them to be.'"

So was playing time a big discussion in living rooms of the Cats' four new wide receivers: Alex Montgomery, Javess Blue, Jeff Badet and Ryan Timmons?

"Huge selling point," Mainord said. "When you look at six total guys on scholarship here at UK. At Texas Tech, we were trying to play with 12, 14 guys in those spots. Now we're at 10. That's it."

Mainord is high on the prospects UK landed and their chances of helping out early.

"I became a better coach today," he said on signing day. "There's no doubt. We're excited about them. The four guys we brought in all bring something different. That's the great thing about them. They're not clones."

On Badet, a 6-foot, 170-pounder from Orlando who caught 63 passes for 881 yards and 10 touchdowns: "He can fly. If he takes the slant, watch out. He's got a lot of speed," Mainord said.

On Blue, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior-college player who had 65 catches for 1,064 yards and 12 TDs: "Very strong, mature body that can fly, can change directions well, has great ball skills. You'll see him on our special teams catching balls. He'll do some returning," Mainord said.

On Montgomery, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Weston, Fla., who had 42 catches for 892 yards and seven touchdowns his senior season (including nine catches for 199 yards and three touchdowns in the state title game): "He's the long body that's real physical that can go head-to-head with a corner and win those battles," Mainord said.

Brown said Timmons, the star from Franklin County, who averaged more than 30 yards a catch his senior season (33 passes for 1,004 yards and 16 scores), was vastly underrated because of his geography.

"If he's in a Florida or a Texas — I think you're looking at a top 100, maybe even a top 50 national recruit," the offensive coordinator said.

Mainord already was plotting ways to get Timmons and Blue in the game together.

"It's going to be interesting to see those two guys together on the field at the same time because they're both explosive guys," he said.

At Texas Tech they had two of those as well in Eric Ward and Darrin Moore, who both had 80-plus catches for more than 1,000 yards and 25 combined touchdowns.

By contrast, the Cats' top receiver last season, senior La'Rod King, finished with 48 grabs for 488 yards and four touchdowns.

Sweeping the (blue) nation

To steal a phrase from a certain package transport company, at his latest news conference to introduce this year's recruiting class, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops was asked: "What can blue do for you?"

The coach didn't hesitate.

"Consistency," he said of the fan base. "Keep on doing what you're doing. ... Keep on pushing. I think our players, our prospects, our commitments have felt the BBN."

One of UK's newest signees, cornerback Jaleel Hytchye, even took to Twitter on Saturday morning to encourage the Wildcat welcome wagon to keep rolling.

"I wanna ask my #BBN followers," the tweet said. "The tremendous support you gave our class through social media was very helpful keep it rolling for 2014!"

Stoops also talked about the importance social media played in building his first recruiting class, which was ranked as high as No. 28 in the nation by one recruiting service.

Having players like Hytchye, who seems destined to be a future recruiting coordinator, and others build excitement about the program is helpful.

"Our players did a great job of communicating with each other and building this class and making it special," Stoops said. "That along with the Big Blue Nation and the social media out there, our players felt that, they felt that on Twitter and they felt the support of our fan base."

Super timing?

Kentucky's marketing people are hoping you not only saw the UK football commercial that ran just before halftime of Sunday's Super Bowl, but that you watched it over and over again.

Even more, they hope the spot that cost $10,000 to run locally on WKYT made you want to go buy or renew your season football tickets.

The basic idea for the 30-second commercial was to get fans excited for the start of spring football, thus the thunder, lightning and rain sounds in the ad.

"It wasn't going to be a fun spot or humorous, it was going to be tough," said Jason Schlafer, a senior associate athletics director. "The thunder, rain, dark, was all about fighting through, which is what (players) do in the spring."

Each year, Kentucky had discussed running an ad during the Super Bowl, but this year seemed like the perfect time, Schlafer said. But UK wanted to make sure it had a "Super Bowl quality ad" to put in the spot. It worked with its outside advertising firm to put it together.

The spot, which includes a digitally recreated Commonwealth Stadium at night, features new coach Mark Stoops' voice. He was one of only a handful of people who knew the spot was going to air.

"We wanted it to creep up on people during the halftime show," Schlafer said. "I wanted folks to back up the DVR."

As for the "Air Raid" sirens that ran in the background of the commercial (like the ones that sounded during the Hal Mumme era at UK), Schlafer said there's been no real discussion about whether or not to bring them back.

"That hasn't been on our radar yet," he said.

Personal touch

When previous season ticket holders got their renewal papers from UK this month, they also got a little something extra, courtesy of Stoops and the marketing staff.

In each envelope is a personalized note card written and signed by the coach. OK, technically, he wrote out one of each of the six messages and UK made copies of them on special Mark Stoops note cards. The cards have messages that range from "Your support is crucial to our future!" to a friendly "See you at the Spring Game!"

Ten lucky season-ticket holders got the Willy Wonka version of the golden ticket, with special instructions from Stoops to call his office (actually the UK marketing offices) with your account number. Those randomly selected people will be invited to a special event with the new UK coach in the spring.

Of course, Schlafer said he knows the 10 random account holders that received the special cards, so don't bother calling unless you got one.

■ The holiday cards sent out to 17,000-plus season ticket holders were quite the hit, so much so that more than 150 people sent cards back to Stoops and family via UK's offices, Schlafer said.

Stadium notes

It's been a busy few weeks around UK football so you might have missed the most recent information on the football facilities renovations from the latest UK Athletics board meeting.

Eric Monday, the university's new executive vice president for finance and administration, told the board that the $110 million plan will be paid off in 30 years at the rate of $6.6 million a year.

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart previously has said that in annualized debt, UK carries about $2 million a year (the total budget is roughly $91 million).

The last time UK borrowed money to pay for athletics facilities was in 1999 for stadium enhancements. That previous debt will be paid off by 2018, Barnhart said.

Kentucky is still waiting for final approval from Frankfort (it cleared its first hurdle last week) to take out the loan and then it goes to the full board, which probably will happen in March.

After those formalities, a design team will begin work that will include, according to Monday, 16-20 private suites, new home team facilities, 2,000 club seats, concession, restroom and security upgrades, a new team store, press facilities and a full-service kitchen.

The project will get underway this calendar year and is to be completed in the fall of 2015 or early spring of 2016, according to the report.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241 Email: jsmith3@herald-leader.com Twitter: @jenheraldleader Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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