Kentucky has three wide receivers with at least 250 receiving yards who have combined for eight touchdowns in five games. All three average at least 15.2 yards per catch with individual receptions of 55 yards or longer.
Tayvion Robinson ranks second in the SEC in total receiving yards with 365 on 24 catches to go with three touchdowns. Barion Brown is a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week honoree and was previously named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week. He has 282 yards and two touchdowns on 15 catches — his 18.8 yards per reception ranks seventh in the SEC — while leading the nation in kickoff returns with 47.7 yards per return. And to round out the trio, Dane Key has already tied Kentucky’s all-time freshman touchdown record with three to go with 269 yards on 17 catches.
Robinson’s consistent production is no surprise — he came to Kentucky as a 1,500-yard receiver and standout punt returner at Virginia Tech. Brown and Key, however, have been day-one stars as true freshmen in the SEC, a difficult feat no matter their rankings out of high school.
“You have the two wideouts in Barion (Brown) and Dane (Key) that have been exceptional,” head coach Mark Stoops said on his call-in radio show Monday evening. “They’ve both had their moments.”
Three standout wide receivers, three future pros, Stoops believes. But they’re not the only ones.
“I really believe we have another one in Dekel (Crowdus),” Stoops said. “… I believe in Dekel because he can run so well. He’s getting better and better and really has big upside. He’ll be a guy that’ll be a big part of our offense as the year moves on this year and certainly in the future.
“Then you’ve got Chris Lewis, I could go on and on. There are some guys that I really believe are NFL-caliber receivers. It is really nice.”
Kentucky has been known for its physicality and toughness as a run-heavy program for the majority of Stoops’ time with the Wildcats. Recently, though, elite playmakers have been added on the outside, forcing the UK head coach to change his approach in recent years.
“Explosive plays are a big part of the game, and we are creating some both in the kicking game and on offense. We need to continue to do that,” Stoops said. “(People) have come to appreciate the ground-and-pound, play good defense, run the ball, win games however you can (mindset), but right now, we do have some explosive playmakers and I really love seeing that. That’s something that’s been a point of emphasis for me the past couple of years.”
It doesn’t hurt when you’re able to sign a future first-round draft pick at quarterback out of the transfer portal, along with the other talented pass-catchers Stoops has been able to reel in. Change is easy when you’ve got the weapons to do it.
“The recruiting has helped,” Stoops said. “Again, when you attract a guy like Will Levis a year ago and start throwing the ball around, have a fun offense to watch and you have the success we’ve had at quarterback, it helps attract quality wide receivers. Those guys are really good players. They really are fun to coach, work extremely hard.”
The best part? Brown, Key, Crowdus and Lewis have at least two more years of eligibility remaining in Lexington. Just need to find another star quarterback in the portal when Levis inevitably enters the draft this offseason.