UK's new 'Air Raid' has one problem: not enough receivers

broberts@herald-leader.comMarch 25, 2013 

Demarco Robinson has impressed the coaching staff in practice.

The new Kentucky coaching staff wants to see the footballs flying next fall.

All Neal Brown and company need are more hands to catch them.

"I think I would play if we were having a game tomorrow," Brown said Monday.

UK's offensive coordinator is out of eligibility, of course, but he delivered the line with a straight face.

Texas Tech ranked among the top four teams in the country in pass attempts in each of Brown's three seasons as offensive coordinator. Last year, the Red Raiders tied for the national lead with 44 passing touchdowns.

If "Air Raid" is coming back to Kentucky, the Cats will need more targets.

"In a perfect world ... we'd like to travel with 10-plus guys. Right now, we've got six total scholarship receivers," said WRs coach Tommy Mainord, who held the same position at Texas Tech the past three seasons.

"We're light on numbers even to get through practice. These guys are having to do something they've never done. In a spread offense, we're playing fast. We're going to play a lot of snaps out here. Their legs are getting dead."

Last season, Texas Tech featured two receivers who totaled more than 80 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns each. Nine different Red Raiders wide receivers caught more than 15 passes.

UK will bring back just four receivers who caught any passes at all last season — junior Demarco Robinson and sophomores Daryl Collins, A.J. Legree and DeMarcus Sweat.

More help — but still not enough — will come in the fall, when freshman recruits Jeff Badet, Alex Montgomery, Ryan Timmons and junior-college transfer Javess Blue arrive on campus.

In the short term, Brown and Mainord must work with what they have.

Brown praised Robinson's performance in practices but said the other returning players "have got to come on."

Robinson, who had 28 catches last season, said the transition from the previous staff to the new system has been relatively smooth.

"It's been easier than what I thought," he said. "I didn't expect to grasp all the concepts as easy as I am. But the coaches are doing a good job of explaining it and making it easy."

Collins is excited by the new spread offense, but his self-described "dead" legs following Monday's practice highlighted one of the pitfalls of trying to run so much offense with so little personnel.

"It's a fast-paced offense so you have to be most definitely in shape," Collins said. "Coach Brown wants everything fast-paced, hurry up and everything."

Mainord noted that the Cats will have to "get creative" with how they use receivers this season. He and Brown won't be able to rotate players the way they did at Tech, and that means more reps for the receivers who are on the field.

The long-term solution is stacking the deck with more recruits.

For now, they'll just have to play with the hands they've been dealt.

"I think one of the best signs of a good coach is using what you have available," Brown said. "Other than those guys we signed, it's not like we're claiming anybody else off the waiver wires. So what we got is what we got. It's my job, the rest of the coaches' job, Coach Stoops' job to mold these guys ... into a functioning unit.

"That's our job, so we gotta get there."

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