December 28, 2011

Tyler Robinson on the field, but still not on the map

This is the seventh and final installment in a series previewing the Kentucky football team's 2012 roster by examining young players who made their mark this season. We look today at the wide receivers and tight ends, which returns most of their depth this season while saying goodbye to a pair of key seniors.

Name: Tyler Robinson
Rivals 2010 recruiting rating: 2-star (4.9)
Height: 6-foot-3 Weight: 252
2012 class: True junior

What he did in 2011:
To break into the rotation at tight end for Kentucky, blocking is a must. As the passing offense sputtered all year, there weren't many catches to go around for young players who weren't starting. Robinson was no different, finishing the year with just eight catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. That was actually a decrease in production from his freshman year, when he had 11 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. But he found himself on the field much more in his second year.

The Wildcats opted to use more two-tight end sets in 2011 as they replaced outgoing fullback Moncell Allen with a true freshman. But at least one and often both of those tight ends found themselves serving as extra blockers. Robinson, who played tight end and defensive end in high school, found himself staying in to block more often than not.

He still made a mark, though, jumping some higher rated prospects on the depth chart and playing in nine games while making two starts in the first half of the year. That's worth noting at a position group that had nearly a half-dozen players vying for playing time. His touchdown reception came against Georgia.

Final statistics: Eight receptions, 44 yards, one touchdown.

On the way out: Wide receiver Matt Roark wasn't thought of as a main cog in the Kentucky offense entering the season, but he was revelatory on offense. He had a pair of 10-yard receiving games and quarterbacked the Wildcats to a win over Tennessee. Fellow senior Nick Melillo played his role as a gritty tight end and had some nice moments, but he's gone as well. Brian Adams has a future in baseball and could leave school in the summer if he likes where he's selected in the MLB draft with two years of football eligibility left.

What he'll do in 2012:
Robinson had to fight for playing time every week in practice, and he'll have to do the same just to keep the same playing time as a junior. There will still be five tight ends on the roster next season, and all of them figure to make the travel team, just like they did this year. There was no telling how the position was going to shake out in 2011, and it could be just as unpredictable in 2012.

But Robinson proved he was an able blocker, so he should be a player on offense, though he might not accumulate many more stats. As D.J. Warren continues to progress at fullback, the Wildcats will likely revert to a normal personnel package, leaving room for just one tight end. Robinson has good hands and there's no reason to think he can't be the top guy, but there's too much competition to pencil him in as the starter.

He's likely the best all-around tight end still on the roster, though that could change as a squadron of young tight ends continue to progress. The wide receivers featured a flotilla of juniors, though some redshirting freshmen could help as well.

Also look out for:
Wide receiver Daryl Collins appeared to be a major part of Kentucky's plans on offense entering the season despite being a true freshman. But he suffered a dislocated right kneecap before the season, undergoing surgery and redshirting. At the least, he figured to play more than fellow freshman Demarco Robinson. He's built solidly, at 5-foot-11, 203 pounds, but is known for his ability to make plays down the field. Collins should be fully healthy for spring camp and ready to go for his redshirt freshman season.

Demarco Robinson found himself with the ball early, but not often. He had a reverse and a jet sweep in the season opener and coaches talked about getting the ball in the hand of the tiny (5-foot-10, 159) sparkplug, but it never really happened. He earned his first and only start of the year against Florida and played in Kentucky's first six games, but didn't find the field in the next five. He did make an appearance with another jet sweep against Tennessee in the season finale. He probably needs to work on his blocking and add some weight to become a regular contributor.

Tight end still figures to be a logjam. Jordan Aumiller didn't register a reception a year after being named freshman All-SEC. His blocking kept him from doing much more than playing on special teams. Anthony Kendrick saw the field some late in the season, but finished the year with just three catches. Gabe Correll will be a senior and probably won't play much more than on special teams. Ronnie Shields will be in the mix as well.

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