Tyler Robinson is My New Favorite Wildcat and Other Thoughts from the Spring Game
The first thing I took away from Saturday’s UK Blue-White Spring Football game is that junior tight end Tyler Robinson is my new favorite Kentucky player. First, he spent the entire game playing like he was auditioning for the role of The Incredible Hulk in the next Avengers movie. Then he showed up in the interview room looking like he should be wearing a trucker hat and cowboy boots, joking about the trainers calling him, “softie and smushie and pudgy.”
Robinson was anything but soft during the game. I don’t have fancy “times targeted” stats, but here’s what I know. When Maxwell Smith threw him a ball your thought he should have caught, Robinson caught it – in a game that was once again marred with a troubling number of dropped balls. And after he caught the ball, he did NOT want to be tackled. Once he broke about four tackles and dragged another tackler a few yards for a 26-yard gain.
Head coach Joker Phillips described Robinson after the game as “kind of one of those guys that just rolls up his sleeves and goes to work, doesn’t say a lot, likes to get his nose bloody and bloody people’s nose, and he catches the football.” And Robinson is all of those things, plus hysterical.
Robinson, who played at the same high school that produced Randall Cobb, ended the game with five catches for 75 yards — many of those after first contact. Coupled with three catches for fellow tight end Ronnie Shields (after a drop of his own), the spring game seemed to announce a reawakening of the tight end spot at UK that has largely been in witness protection since Jacob Tamme graduated in 2007.
The lack of tight end production hasn’t been lost on Robinson.
“Last year and the year before last the tight ends didn’t really have a good contribution,” Robinson said. “I think we stepped up a lot today. I mean we had what 14, 15 catches maybe as a group? So I think we did a good a job. It’s time for us to step up because we’re older now. We know the offense, so I’m looking for a big year from all of us.”
Ok, so it was only 12 catches, counting three by Anthony Kendrick and one by 2011 starter Jordan Aumiller who were playing with the second team, but Robinson’s point is valid. When the Kentucky offense – when almost any football offense these days – is running efficiently, the tight ends are a big part of the equation. Hopefully Saturday marked a return of consistently productive tight ends to the Kentucky attack.
Robinson even invoked Tamme’s name post game.
“We got four or five Jacob Tammes this year,” Robinson joked. “I’m not saying that, but it will be good to get some catches.”
This Robinson Kid is Everywhere
Overall, it was a good day to be wearing a white jersey that said “Robinson” on the back. Sophomore wide receiver Demarco Robinson was the game’s leading receiver with nine grabs for 146 yards. He and redshirt freshman Darryl Collins (at least early. He ended up with just two catches.) looked like the kind of playmakers Kentucky desperately lacked in 2011.
The only question I have about Robinson and Collins is that in an age of giant wideouts, they are not. Robinson is listed at 5-10 and Collins at 5-11, and those measures might be in cleats on concrete. The Cats do still have the taller LaRod King, who did not play in the spring game, nursing minor injuries.
Smith Expects More
Consensus in the press box seemed to be that sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith played pretty well. It was a consensus that in post game interviews, neither Smith nor Coach Randy Sanders shared in. Smith said that he wasn’t happy with how he played and that he wasn’t looking forward to watching the film with Sanders. Sanders agreed that that might not be a fun experience for his QB.
Smith did get intercepted twice as part of a night where he went 29 of 45 for 353 yards with 2 TDs. The first was one that Smith forced into coverage a little bit that was tipped into the air before being picked off. The second was all Smith as defense back Eric Simmons undercut the route and caught it like he was the intended receiver. And while one of Smith’s TDs was a pretty 69-yard bomb to Demarco Robinson, and another was a beautifully threaded ball to Demarco Robinson on the sideline in the end zone. But Smith missed on several other long throws, one of which definitely should have been intercepted.
But for most of the night Smith was accurate, on time and catching receivers in stride. It was the most promising a Kentucky quarterback had shown in the spring game in a while.
Look, I know all of these numbers came against the second team defense, but NOBODY in last year’s Blue-White game looked as competent as most of the first team offense did Saturday night, so I’ll take what I can get.
If you’re looking for a couple of negatives, Kentucky still had trouble running the ball. The first team offense managed only 61 rushing yards (still only 72 if you take out the one Smith sack). That’s not enough against your own team’s backups, but it was clear that the coaching staff was featuring the pass in the game. Those 61 yards came on only 18 attempts (versus 45 passes).
On the other side, the first team offense struggled to stop the run. The most worrisome play came when walk-on quarterback Jacob Russell ran 54 yards for a touchdown. Keep in mind he had a no contact jersey on, so all you had to do to stop him was touch him – with one hand. It was pretty ugly.
Overall, I’m much more encouraged after this year’s spring game than I was last year. I hope some of it translates to fall, since I just re—upped my football season tickets.
Vaught’s Views Guest Post
Last week, Larry Vaught asked me to write a guest post for his vaughtsviews.com site about why I decided to commit to buying those season tickets. It’s an honor to be asked to write by a guy I truly like and deeply respect. Plus, he’s a Hall of Famer. Pretty cool.
The story posted today. You can read it here.
Anthony White will be in with me and Larry tomorrow on First State Financial Sunday Morning Sports Talk – 9 am to noon on NewsRadio 630 WLAP in Lexington and wlap.com — to talk about the spring game, so bring your football questions tomorrow.