The University of Kentucky confirmed the departure of four football players Thursday, a move that included the loss of two players at the much-needed wide receiver position.
Sophomore receivers DeMarcus Sweat and Bookie Cobbins and freshman defensive backs Shawn Blaylock and Sterling Wright are no longer members of the UK football team.
UK spokesman Tony Neely declined to comment on why the players left the program but said UK will assist them as they look to transfer to other schools.
One other player will also be leaving UK.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
The high school coach of Demarius Rancifer told Cats Illustrated that the sophomore linebacker will not return next season. UK would not confirm his departure.
The loss of Sweat and Cobbins leaves the Cats with just four returning scholarship players at wide receiver: Junior Demarco Robinson and sophomores A.J. Legree, Daryl Collins and Rashad Cunningham.
The position is of vital importance in new offensive coordinator Neal Brown's system.
"In a perfect world ... we'd like to travel with 10-plus guys," wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord told the Herald-Leader during spring practice. "Walk-ons are huge for us, and these freshmen that are coming in are going to be big."
One of those walk-ons will be Lucas Witt, who this week decided to leave the UK baseball team to become a wide receiver.
Witt played both sports at Lexington Christian and will have two years of eligibility with the football team.
Other redshirt players listed at wide receiver on the UK spring roster include A.J. Johnson, Mikal Moore, Derrick Quarles, Muhammad Saifullah, Austin Sheehan, William Tanner and Latrell Wilson.
The Cats also will add four newcomers to their receiving corps in the fall: Junior college transfer Javess Blue and true freshmen Jeff Badet, Ryan Timmons and Alex Montgomery.
Steven Borden, another junior college transfer, is listed at tight end but put in some time at wide receiver during spring practice.
Junior tight end Ronnie Shields also played wide receiver during UK's spring game.
Blaylock had season-ending knee surgery last August and is still recovering from his injury.
Stephenson High (Ga.) recruiting coordinator Corey Johnson told the Herald-Leader that UK asked Blaylock to give up his athletic scholarship.
The school offered to pay for the remainder of Blaylock's college education, but it would have meant the end of his football career.
It also would have allowed UK to use the athletic scholarship to recruit another player.
Johnson said Blaylock was told by doctors in Georgia that he would fully recover from his knee injury and should be OK to play football again.
"They said he should recover after therapy and be just fine," Johnson said. "But Kentucky wanted to recruit the scholarship and they wanted him to sign an agreement saying he wouldn't play football as long as they pay for his education.
"The kid didn't want to do it, so he's going to leave the program."
Johnson said nearly 30 FBS and FCS schools have expressed interest in Blaylock, who plans to transfer after finishing summer classes at UK.
Sweat was also a player at Stephenson High. Johnson said his departure was related to academics.
The 6-foot-1 receiver showed early promise as a true freshman last year. He scored touchdowns in the games against Western Kentucky and Kent State and finished the season with four catches for 84 yards while also returning kicks.
Sweat sat out the last two games of the season to focus on academics.
Cobbins played in two games last year but did not record a reception.
Rancifer had one tackle and played in 11 games last season, primarily on special teams.
Wright was a redshirt last season.