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Who is Kentucky’s all-time best receiver? Randall Cobb, Derek Abney, Craig Yeast?

By LARRY VAUGHT

Jared Lorenzen readily admits he’s biased when it comes to who is the best receiver ever at Kentucky.

“You could make a case for Keenan Burton, Stevie Johnson, Craig Yeast,” said Lorenzen, the former record-setting UK quarterback. “But they have yet to have another one as good as (Derek) Abney and didn’t have one before. That was my receiver.

“To be however tall he is and do what he did returning kicks and catching balls was awesome. He was the guy I felt comfortable with throwing a 4-yard hitch and letting him turn it into a 70-yard play. We don’t have that yet (at UK). I don’t know if we ever will again.”

Abney caught 197 passes for 2,339 yards and 18 touchdowns from 2000-2203. He’s third all-time in Southeastern Conference all-purpose yardage with 5,856 yards. Abney says he found out when he was inducted into the UK Hall of Fame that he set 14 school records, 11 SEC records and 7 NCAA marks. He returned four punts for scores in one season and had six total kick returns for scores in the same season, both national mark.

Abney left Kentucky with the second-most receiving yards in team history, and the second-most all-purpose yards in SEC history.

Yet Abney doesn’t think of himself as the best ever at UK even though his 197 career receptions rank second on the all-time list. Only Craig Yeast with 208 catches from 1995-98 has more.

But it is Randall Cobb, the current Green Bay Packers star, who Abney puts at the top of his list.

“I really liked Randall a lot,” Abney said. “I didn’t get to see Craig play as much. Randall was a winner. Some players have it above and beyond ability, and he does. You can be talented and produce numbers, but Randall is a winner. Craig had to be up there, but Randall had the whole package and is my favorite UK receiver.”

Cobb had 2,396 all-purposed yards in 2010, a single season SEC record. He was a multipurpose player at UK and scored 22 rushing touchdowns, threw for 542 of his 689 yards as a true freshman and had an 84-catch, 1,107-yard receiving season as a junior before turning pro. He also scored on two punt returns in his career.

He finished with 144 career catches for 1,661 yards and 22 scores, ran for 689 yards and had 1,700 return yards.

However, no receiver at Kentucky has been more productive than Yeast.

“He’s my guy,” former UK running back Anthony White, who had 194 career receptions himself, said. “He was sensational. He knew he was good, told you he was good and then still went out and made plays for you.”

Yeast ended his career as the SEC’s all-time reception leader in 1998 and still ranks third with his 208 catches for 2,899 yards (second at the time and now seventh) and 28 scores (fourth then and now sixth). He also had 1,256 return yards and returned four kicks for touchdowns.

Burton had 189 receptions for 2,376 yards and 25 scores and 1,805 return yards from 2003-2008.

White caught 194 passes for 1,520 yards and eight scores and rushed for 1,758 yards and 11 scores from 1996-1999.

“For Anthony to be only three catches behind me as a running back, that is pretty amazing,” Abney said. “I don’t see another running back breaking that record.”

So who would get your vote as Kentucky’s all-time best receiver? Would it be one of these players, or someone from a much earlier era?

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7 comments

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  1. TrueBlueJohn

    All of the above mentioned receivers were great ones, and deserve all the accolades given them. But they had one great advantage in racking up statistics, the pass-happy offenses that they played in. There have been other great receivers in the past that if they had played in the Air-Raid of Hal Mumme, would have similar stats. To name a few, Steve Meilenger, Tom Hutchinson, and Rick Kestner.

    Having said all of that, I would be hard-pressed to rank anybody ahead of Derek Abney who was a threat to score any time he touched the ball. (You could say that about Yeast and Cobb also.) The amazing thing about all three of these was their durability despite their size. It was a joy to watch them play.

  2. RV

    I gotta vote for Derek Abney. He was quick, elusive and smooth as silk in the pattern. He had deceptive speed running routes. Not to mention fearless. Yeast had those qualities as well. Cobb was just a great athlete and muscled his way in front of the defender. But Abney was a like a loaded gun when he lined up. If the defender gave him an inch, Abney made him pay dearly if Lorenzen got the ball anywhere close to being catchable. I loved to watch Abney play. He played bigger and faster than he actually was.

  3. Larry pup

    Abney hands down was the best of the best. My favorite receiver though is Stevie Johnson due mainly for his great catch against Louisville for the win.

  4. Edward

    Wasn’t Tom Hutchinson a first team All-American?

  5. King Ghidora

    We shouldn’t forget Steve Meilinger, who was a 2 time All American for UK under Bear Bryant. He didn’t play end all of the time but he played there a lot. He also played halfback and quarterback. He’s a member of the college football HOF. Remember the Cats had an excellent team in those days which included a national championship in 1950.

    1. larryvaught

      Great point about Mellinger there King

  6. Jim W

    Randy Burke, late 70s.

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