No doubt one area where University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops and new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson would like to see improvement in 2015 is production at wide receiver. The first two years of the new modified Air Raid has not produced the best of receiving numbers.
Looking back over the last 10 seasons, Javess Blue is the only player from the Stoops era to crack the top 10 in receiving yards. That was in 2013 when as a junior-college transfer Blue caught 43 balls for 586 yards and four touchdowns.
Still, that paled in comparison with Cats receivers over the past decade. Stevie Johnson (2007), Keenan Burton (2006) and Randall Cobb (2010) turned in 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Johnson caught 13 touchdown passes in 2007. Burton caught 12 in 2006.
Even under Joker Phillips, Cobb caught 84 balls for 1,017 yards in 2010 while Chris Matthews caught 61 passes for 924 yards. In 2011, LaRod King caught 40 balls for 598 yards.
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Of course, Mike Hartline was the quarterback in 2010. Though Hartline was often criticized, he threw for 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions while leading the Cats to a bowl that season. Kentucky’s receivers haven’t had the same consistency at quarterback. Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow combined for 14 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2012. Patrick Towles threw 14 TDs with nine interceptions last season.
The Cats were also without Jeff Badet and Alex Montgomery last season. Badet caught 22 balls for 285 yards and a score as a freshman in 2013 before being injured before the 2014 campaign. Montgomery did not make it back from a leg injury after grabbing 16 balls for 137 yards and two scores in 2013.
And UK hopes that true freshman C.J. Conrad will present the same sort of tight end threat the Cats have been missing since Jacob Tamme left campus. Tamme went from 29 catches in 2005 to 32 in 2006 and 56 for 619 yards and six touchdowns in 2007.