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Summer practice offers UK receivers opportunity to improve on consistency

The University of Kentucky wide receivers ended spring practice on a low note.


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The passing game struggled to gain any positive momentum due to a number of dropped balls during the Blue/White game, leaving fans and the UK coaching staff wondering who would fill the void left by departing players Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews.


With just a few weeks left before the start of fall practice, UK junior receiver La’Rod Kind said his position unit is well on the way to putting those consistency issues behind it.


“We’re out here everyday working, just to get to that point where it’s automatic,” he said before a summer workout Wednesday.


The receiving corp for the Blue and White teams combined for double-digit drops in the spring game.


“We had two scrimmages where I felt we were very inconsistent in catching the football,” UK head coach Joker Phillips said after the game. “The thing that I look at is how natural they are. If they catch the ball naturally, I’m not too concerned about them.”


Cobb, who the Green Bay Packers selected in the second round of the NFL draft following his junior season, and Matthews, who went undrafted after his senior season but hopes to sign a free agent deal after the NFL lockout ends, accounted for almost 49 percent of UK’s total receptions and just over 55 percent of its total receiving yards in 2010. In their absence, the bulk of the receiving duties may be placed on King and his veteran teammates.


La'Rod King, University of Kentucky footballThe connection King and UK junior quarterback Morgan Newton showed during their freshman season in 2009 — with nine of King’s 10 receptions that season coming from Newton over a span of five games — has King hopeful that he can fill the vacancy left by Cobb and Matthews.


“It’s been there, but it hasn’t been released yet,” he said of his rapport with Newton. “This upcoming season is the time for it.”


UK returns three wide receivers who tallied at least one catch in the 2010 season: King, senior Matt Roark and redshirt sophomore Brian Adams.


Several other receivers on the roster saw extensive special teams action last season, and redshirt junior Gene McCaskill — who caught 32 passes in his first two seasons at UK — is working his way back from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2010 season.


With so many question marks remaining at the position, at least one true freshman wide receiver may be asked to contribute early in 2011.


“All the freshmen have that working attitude, that hunger to learn and the passion of the game,” King said.


The adjustment from high school to college is not easy, King said, noting some of the freshmen were still working on adjusting to the game’s demands at the collegiate level.


“Some might branch out, but the majority of them are going to get that message: ‘This is your life, this is football. All that high school stuff is done, it’s time to play,'” he said.


At least one defensive player has been impressed by the young receivers and Newton’s ability to work them into the offense this summer.


“With these freshmen receivers coming in and the new running backs, I think they are going to contribute to this team the best way they can,” said senior safety WInston Guy.


Fans should expect a lot of new contributors on the field this season, but that doesn’t mean the team will take a step back like some have predicted, Guy said.


“Everybody should expect us to be better than last year,” he said. “I want everybody to be patient. A lot of people are going to step up this year and play big for this team.”


Top image: UK redshirt sophomore wide receiver Brian Adams models the new UK football uniforms at their unveiling.


Bottom image: UK junior wide receiver La’Rod King talks to reporters Wednesday.

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