LEXINGTON – Mark Stoops’ moment of embarrassment against Tennessee is perhaps the best evidence to date that Kentucky football’s offense has finally found another wide receiver.
As the Wildcats had to drive for a possible game-tying field goal, Stoops lost his temper, running onto the field to discuss with an official what the replay turned out to be a missed face mask penalty. when the Kentucky quarterback Will Levis was sacked on a third held near midfield. Instead of giving Kentucky a first try because of the face mask, the official flagged Stoops for unsportsmanlike conduct to give the Wildcats a fourth and 24 games.
Kentucky’s hopes of completing the comeback were surely over, but someone forgot to inform Levis or second-year tight end Izayah Cummings that the game was over.
Levis found Cummings, the Louisville native and former Male High School star, for a 28-yard run on the straight sideline. Kentucky suddenly had a new life.
Practice would end four games later without scoring, but Cummings had proven there was more to Kentucky’s passing game than Levis targeting star wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson time and time again.
“He’s the kind of kid who will do whatever you ask him to do”, offensive coordinator Liam Coen Cummings said after the game. “Talk about a guy who just played a role and did everything right all the time. Recently battled an injury. Getting him back was the goal and the plan. I’m so proud of him. “
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Cummings finished the Tennessee game with four career best catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
His touchdown came with Kentucky trailing 10 early in the fourth quarter when Levis hit him for a 24-yard gain. Cummings drugs a defender for the last 7 yards in the end zone.
During the season, Cummings is now second on the team in touchdowns (two) and fourth in receiving yards (159), although he is ranked third on the depth chart in his own post. .
“I’m so happy for this kid… to go from that wide receiver to the tight end and to be so positive about it, to develop as an all-around player,” Levis said. “Go block and stick your nose in there, be fast, take good roads. He has been an asset to us and he will only get better. I am delighted to see his progress.
Cummings spent his first season in Kentucky as a wide receiver. While he was a frequent target of praise Kentucky coaches for his physical threat potential, he hasn’t caught a pass in nine games.
During spring training, his first chance to learn of Coen’s new attack, Cummings was rarely mentioned by Kentucky’s new offensive coordinator as a potential weapon this fall. Asked directly about Cummings at one point, Coen applauded his initial quickness, but said Cummings “needs to keep playing faster on a daily basis.”
When tight end Keaton Upshaw was lost to a end of season injury At the end of summer workouts, Cummings approached the UK coaches to switch to the tight end to help depth there.
The move quickly made him a much more intriguing piece for Coen’s offense.
“You look at him right now and you say ‘Wow, he’s a very athletic guy’ because of the position he’s playing,” said Stoops. “If he was on the outside, you might not say, ‘He’s an athletic guy.’ I’m not saying he’s not a good player, but not overly athletic for (the wide receiver).
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Kentucky’s tight depth chart looks stacked for the foreseeable future.
Starter Justin Rigg is playing his final season of college football as super senior, but Upshaw is expected to be in good health for the 2022 season. Kentucky are also expected to fire junior Brenden Bates and rookie Jordan Dingle, a former four-star rookie. Michigan state transfer Tre’Von Morgan, a 6-foot-6 wide receiver, recently moved to that position after missing most of the first half of the season with multiple hamstring injuries.
Coen’s offense uses tight ends extensively as receivers on play passes. Expect him to continue to make heavy use of several tight sets, opening up new opportunities for Cummings regardless of depth. of the position.
“He’s also getting more physical, he’s not afraid to block,” Stoops said. “He wants to become a full tight end, he’s working hard on it, and we’ll continue to bring him down that path where we use him to a prototype tight end and not just a guy who doesn’t fit because that can be picked enough quickly too.
Email Jon Hale at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.
This article originally appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky football: Izayah Cummings wins bigger attacking role