The University of Kentucky receiving corps, looking to re-establish itself as a threat in the Southeastern Conference, has probably lost one of its top veterans for the 2021 season.
Clevan Thomas, who’s entering his senior season, suffered a torn ACL during UK’s last week of spring practice, as first reported by Nick Roush of Kentucky Sports Radio. UK spokesperson Susan Lax confirmed the report to the Herald-Leader.
Outside of Josh Ali, who led UK in receiving last season, Thomas was the only returning receiver who’d caught a touchdown as a Wildcat; his lone score came in 2019, when he grabbed the first TD pass of Lynn Bowden’s career against Arkansas in a 24-20 victory.
He played in only four games last season, recording a single reception for 3 yards, but Thomas throughout spring practice drew praise from UK’s coaching staff and teammates. New offensive coordinator Liam Coen said in March that, at that time, he was one of the only receivers playing multiple positions within the offense.
“He’s done some really nice things. Some really nice things,” Coen said. “He’s working his tail off. He runs great routes. He’s hustling around.”
Thomas’ injury was the second reported out of spring practice that will have a significant impact on the 2021 season. Head coach Mark Stoops shared Saturday that D’Eryk Jackson, a sophomore linebacker, suffered an injury to a “lower extremity” that’s likely to sideline him for the entirety of the fall.
Next man up
UK has more bodies to replace Thomas than it does Jackson, but after Ali and Wan’Dale Robinson, who transferred in after two years as the top threat at Nebraska, it’s thin on legitimate experience.
Isaiah Epps, a senior who missed all of 2019 due to a foot ailment from which he continues to battle back, returned for six games last year and was able to start in the Wildcats’ Gator Bowl win over North Carolina State; if completely healthy, he’d provide the most experience, on and off the field, after Ali. Epps played in the first 26 games of his career beginning as a true freshman in 2017 and started twice as a sophomore prior to his injury.
DeMarcus Harris, a sophomore, is the only returning receiver after Ali who caught double-digit passes in 2020; he recorded 14 receptions for 87 yards last year. Izayah Cummings (nine) and Mike Drennen (eight) as true freshmen appeared in several games last year but Drennen recorded all of the receptions between them, three for 26 yards.
Rahsaan Lewis, a junior walk-on and the son of former NFL star Ray Lewis, got significant reps throughout the spring. He played in seven games as a true freshman at Central Florida, then in four games as a redshirt freshman at Florida Atlantic in 2019 before enrolling at UK last year. Tae Tae Crumes, a sophomore who starred for Butler High School in Louisville, was often mentioned in the spring after appearing in just one game since arriving on campus in 2019.
UK in addition to Robinson signed five receivers — four high school seniors and Michigan State transfer Tre’Von Morgan — as part of the 2021 class. Among the incoming freshmen only Chauncey Magwood, who played quarterback in his final season at Lee County High School in Georgia, enrolled in January.