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By LARRY VAUGHT
Daryl Collins almost went to Alabama before a last-minute change of heart brought him to Kentucky where he expected to be a major playmaker for the Wildcats as a true freshman. However, Collins tore his anterior cruciate ligament before the season started, redshirted and could only watch the Cats struggle offensively during a 5-7 season.
Now heâ€™s completed spring practice and made a big impression on sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith.
â€œHe can mean a whole lot to our offense. He can be that guy who you have to get the ball to him no matter what 10 times a game with reverses or anything,â€ said Smith. â€œHe doesnâ€™t have the speed Demarco (Robinson) has, but he is so fluid with everything and has great hands. Just a great route runner. He was taught well in high school on how to run routes. You can tell that. But he has to be a huge impact for us. We need him to have a huge impact. Heâ€™s that good.â€
Collins had two catches for 20 yards on back to back plays in Saturdayâ€™s Blue-White Game and then played only sparingly after that.
â€œHe made a huge play on that slant (pass),â€ UKâ€ˆcoach Joker Phillips said. â€œThatâ€™s just a glimpse of what he can do. We do have to get the ball in Daryl Collinsâ€™ hands.â€
Hereâ€™s what the 5-11, 202-pound Collins, who has two cousins playing at Alabama, had to say about his knee, his abilities and position coach Pat Washington.
Question: How did your knee hold up during the spring?
Collins: â€œIt has been good. Some days Iâ€ˆhad to sit out, but I pushed through the pain. It is not that much of a pain. When Iâ€ˆam stopping and breaking down, thatâ€™s when it hurts. Running full speed it is fine.â€
Question: How hard on the last eight to nine months been on you since you hurt your knee last August in preseason camp?
Collins: â€œIt has been overwhelming. Just sitting out and missing the whole season, that was my first time doing that and going through something like that. As the year came around, I got more comfortable with my knee, studying the playbook and starting to get back into football and getting ready for the spring.â€
Question: Do you see a lot of ways you can help this offense?
Collins: â€œYes I do. If I can get the ball in my hands, I can pretty much help the team. And not just getting the ball in my hands, but spreading it out. It will be a lot easier on us instead of everybody just throwing the ball to one person.â€ˆIf we can just spread the ball out, we should be able to get downfield easily.â€
Question: What is the best part of your game?
Collins: â€œMy speed and quickness. That is basically the best thing about me. And my catching. I also can jump. When all that comes together, it is pretty much hard to stop me.â€
Question: Will you also be returning kickoffs/punts?
Collins: â€œProbably me and Demarco (Robins) will be back there returning kicks. We are working on that. They have to decide by next season who will be back there. I like doing it. It is a hard thing to do because you have to judge the ball and know how far it is going or how short. After you have been doing it so long in high school, it gets easier.â€
Question: How hard was it to watch the offense struggle last year and believe you could be helping if you were not hurt?
Collins: â€œThat was hard. Just like sitting in my room and watching us struggle against other teams. It was very hard because Iâ€ˆknow Iâ€ˆcould have helped the team out a lot with my ability. I just had to overcome that and wait until next season to show everybody what Iâ€ˆam made of.â€
Question: How has new receivers coach Pat Washington helped you this spring?
Collins: â€œHe has helped me a lot. He will stand out there on the field and act like he is a linebacker or defensive back and tell us how to run the route. When it comes scrimmage or game time, we will be really used to seeing the defensive player play us like that. It will be a lot easier with him out there doing that. He is coming along very well as a coach. He is a very funny guy. He will have us laughing, but when it is time to be serious, he will be serious.â€
Question: Since you came here to play for Tee Martin who recruited you, do you feel like you have gone to having your grandfather coaching you now since Washington is a good bit older than Martin?
Collins: â€œIt has been hard. Not that different. He pretty much teaches the same thing that Tee taught. Just the route running, the same drills. He plays with us. Tee used to play with us. When it is time to be serious, heâ€™s serious. Tee used to be serious. They are pretty much alike and do the same things. It is very fun to be around both of them.â€
Question: Are there any doubts that your knee will be 100 percent by August?
Collins: â€œIt will be 100 percent. Just running full speed is good. Itâ€™s just the breaking down part that I feel a slight little pain in it. Other than that, it feels good. It is not the side they repaired that hurts, but the other side. As long as it ainâ€™t the side that has been repaired, I am very good.â€