One of the University of Kentucky football team’s top returning offensive weapons announced Friday that he plans to graduate in May and play his fifth season somewhere else.
Jeff Badet, who led UK in receiving yards during the 2016 season, posted an open letter to Wildcats fans on Twitter.
“It is something I prayed about and have discussed with my family and we feel this is the best decision for me,” Badet wrote. “Again, I want to say thank you to everybody that I got a chance to build a relationship with and hope we can continue to keep that relationship.”
The 6-foot wide receiver from Orlando, Fla., caught 31 passes for 670 yards and four touchdowns. His 31 catches were second-most on the team behind Garrett Johnson’s 39.
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For his UK career, Badet had 82 catches for 1,385 yards and seven scores. He was widely considered one of the fastest players on the team and was the Cats’ most consistent home run threat.
In a release through the school, head coach Mark Stoops said: “I appreciate Jeff and the contributions he made to the program during his time here. We wish him the best of luck in the future.”
Badet, who is on track to graduate with a degree in agricultural economics in May, did not say where he plans to transfer. UK will not place any limitations on where Badet can go, meaning it’s possible the Cats could wind up competing against him in the Southeastern Conference.
“First off, I want to thank the coaching staff here at UK for everything they have done for me,” Badet said in the note he posted on Twitter. “Special thanks to Coach Stoops for believing in me 4 years ago to come here and represent the University of Kentucky.”
Badet, who was first in the SEC and sixth nationally in yards per catch at 21.6, went on to thank his teammates and the fan base for their support.
Badet was part of a group of wide receivers that arrived at UK with Stoops and signed on for the Air Raid with offensive coordinator Neal Brown. That group then went through two more offensive coordinators.
After the season-ending injury to quarterback Drew Barker, Kentucky’s shift to a run-first offense in the middle of the season was of specific concern to Badet.
The wide receiver met with Stoops about it before the Mississippi State game on Oct. 22.
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said he understood the wide receivers being upset.
“That’s a frustrating thing for guys,” Gran said. “They want the ball. I don’t want to coach them if they don’t want the ball, but at the end of the day, it’s about winning.”
Against the Bulldogs in that game, Badet had seven grabs for a career-best 139 yards and two touchdowns.
No catch was bigger than the 18-yarder he made in the middle of the field in the final seconds that set up a game-winning field goal for Austin MacGinnis.
Kentucky returns four soon-to-be senior wide receivers who have played significant snaps in Garrett Johnson, Dorian Baker, Blake Bone and Charles Walker as well as junior-college transfer Kayaune Ross, who missed much of the 2016 season with an injury.
The Cats will have two sophomores in Jabari Greenwood and Tavin Richardson and redshirt freshmen Dakota Holtzclaw and Zy’Aire Hughes.
The 2017 recruiting class also has four wide-outs in Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps, Javonte Richardson and Clevan Thomas.