Blue looking for space vs No. 20 Gators
by Gary B. Graves AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON (AP) — Javess Blue has had an immediate impact since arriving at Kentucky and the Wildcats are reaping benefits from the junior’s rapid transition.
The junior college transfer enters Saturday night’s Southeastern Conference opener against No. 20 Florida as a playmaker the Wildcats (1-2, 0-0) hope will help end their 26-game losing streak to the Gators (2-1, 1-0). Blue is Kentucky’s leading receiver and kick returner and his 392 all-purpose yards rank eighth in the conference.
His big-play resume’ includes an 88-yard touchdown reception against Miami (Ohio) and a 43-yard kickoff return against Louisville. More important is how the Babson Park, Fla., native has established a presence among Kentucky’s young receiver corps.
Blue will be looking for space against Florida’s league-best secondary, a challenge he’s confident of fulfilling.
“Just completing the plays that we’ve been running out here and my assignments, everything should go smoothly,” said the wide receiver, who also had 193 all-purpose yards against Louisville.
The hardest part for Blue was remaining patient while trying to meet academic requirements after earning second team NJCAA All-American honors last season at Butler Community College in Kansas. He missed spring drills and arrived at the start of fall camp needing to get up to speed with offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s playbook.
Blue has turned out to be a quick study of Brown’s Air Raid offense and even faster on the field. His team-leading 15 receptions include that 88-yard catch-and-run against Miami (Ohio) for his first Kentucky TD and the fourth-longest pass play in school history. He finished with a team-high 114 yards on six catches.
“Everything was thrown at me kind of fast and I just had to jump on and learn as fast as possible,” said the 6-foot, 190-pounder, who has added 23 rushing and 21 punt return yards respectively.
“It wasn’t too hard, but it wasn’t too easy. I had my ups and downs, but after a while I got the hang of it.”
The timing of Blue’s score made it more memorable. Kentucky seemed destined to punt following three penalties that pushed the Wildcats deep in their territory before Blue got free of a RedHawk defender by the right hash mark and grabbed Maxwell Smith’s pass for a score that elicited cheers and air raid sirens in a 41-7 victory.
Coach Mark Stoops is curious to see what Blue does next as his learning curve continues.
“To come in here and be able to make plays like he’s done, it’s been very impressive,” Stoops said. “When you get here late and go through training camp and get into the start of the season, they’re at a different pace than the rest of the team. …
“I think right now he’s starting to feel comfortable and hopefully we’ll see the results on the field (and) see him even play better and better.”
A huge challenge awaits Blue and Kentucky’s receivers against Florida’s secondary, which is allowing an SEC-low 157 yards passing per game and ranks third with eight interceptions. The Gators picked off four passes in last week’s win over Tennessee, a situation Brown said Wednesday will force his young receivers to be more physical in hopes of creating separation from defenders.
“We’ve got to try to get their hands off of us all the time,” Brown said.
Wildcats receivers must also avoid the dropped passes that plagued them in their 27-13 loss to Louisville, with Blue among the guilty parties. Smith remains confident in his targets despite the flubs and Blue’s numbers in particular demonstrate the quarterback’s comfort zone with the player who had to work extra fast to acclimate himself to the system.
“He’s a very good route-runner and very fast,” Smith said of Blue. “He has impressed me every day he’s been out here.”
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