At 6-foot-3, Dorian Baker is not a small guy.
But even the sizable Kentucky wide receiver was taken aback by the size of the defenders he saw in the Southeastern Conference last season.
Instead of being able to go up and over smaller cornerbacks for loose balls, Baker found himself eye to eye with many defenders in the league.
"It was kind of a wake-up call," Baker said about facing a team like Louisiana State last season. Only one of the Tigers' corners on the depth chart (which goes three deep) was shorter than 6-foot.
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"We'd never faced big DBs like that, so it was a new thing for us," said Baker, who didn't catch a pass in that 41-3 loss last season at Death Valley. "It was kind of going in blind."
Even Coach Mark Stoops admitted to being surprised by the size and length of many of the secondaries UK faced last season.
"Some of those corners that we see in this league, it was even eye-opening to me at times," Stoops said. "I can recall going to LSU and being really impressed with the length of the secondary, seeing those guys in person and up close."
Kentucky had upgrades in size in its wide receiving group that season, but the Cats had never faced in practice the type of size they were seeing from other schools.
UK's defensive backfield was still on the smaller side with longtime starting corners Cody Quinn (5-foot-11) and Fred Tiller (6-foot), who are quick but undersized at their spots.
The need for UK to get bigger at the cornerback spot has been well documented. The benefit of getting taller, rangier players in the secondary is obvious for the defense.
It's been a big boost for the UK offense, too. Being able to practice against the size of a Chris Westry (6-foot-4) and a Derrick Baity (6-3) has been big for the Kentucky wide receiver group.
"The SEC is getting bigger; everyone is getting bigger," said 6-foot-5 wide receiver Blake Bone, who had two grabs for 15 yards in that game at LSU where the Cats managed just 19 catches for 146 yards, their second fewest receiving yards of the season.
Bone said he enjoys going up against defenders his own size in practice "because it makes me better at the end of the day. The best competition needs to be on the field for me to compete with so I can be ready for the games we play on Saturday."
Quarterback Patrick Towles can't help but notice the bigger defenders on the practice fields. He has to be aware of them every time he throws a pass.
"We're really improved back there," he said of the UK secondary. "We've got big, tall guys who can make a lot of plays. The more competition we have in practice, the better we're going to be, so that's going to be good for us."
Having taller, longer defenders in the secondary hasn't just been an issue for the receivers on the edges like Baker and Bone.
Six-foot-1 senior Joey Herrick said all of the wide outs are having to work harder to get open and make plays.
"With Chris (Westry), he's a huge corner," Herrick said. "You definitely have to do more double moves on him. If you just go in a straight line with him, you're not going to win."
All of college football is going to taller players in the secondary, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson noted. There is size all over the field, which is why UK focused on getting some wide out size on his side of the ball, too.
The Cats now have eight wide receivers taller than 6 feet, including five at 6-foot-2 or taller (Baker, Bone and 6-3 freshmen Jabari Greenwood and Tavin Richardson, as well as 6-2 sophomore Alexander Montgomery).
"I definitely think our secondary is rangy," Dawson said. "That's why we've recruited receivers that can make plays on them, so that's obviously going to help."