LEXINGTON — Former Franklin County High School star Ryan Timmons is bigger, stronger, faster and more confident, and could play an expanded role for the Kentucky Wildcats this coming football season.
“Timmons is doing very good,” UK coach Mark Stoops said Wednesday as his Wildcats approach the midway point in spring football exercises. “He’s more consistent at being a more complete wide receiver.
“We know he’s good with the ball in his hands. But he’s got to learn to get open. It’s not just screens and fly motions and handing him the ball and all that. He’s improving. He really is.”
Big plays were not new to Timmons in high school, of course. He pretty much redefined the phrase, big play, in fact.
But Timmons was a three-sport guy at Franklin County, which left little time for work in the weight room. And shoulder surgery a year ago put him further behind coming into UK last fall.
The fact that Timmons was a starter for the Wildcats from week one, catching 32 passes for 338 yards and rushing 12 times for 91 yards, was a testament to his speed and quickness.
He did it despite a lack of the kind of physical strength and conditioning needed to survive long-term in Southeastern Conference football.
“It was a struggle for me last year,” Timmons said. “I couldn’t play as fast or as much because I would get tired. I was limited in some things. But now my conditioning is pretty good, so I’ll be able to run faster, longer. And now I’m able to work with the guys in my position group to focus on specific things I need to work on.
“At first, my goal was mostly to get my strength back, so I’d be able to do more lifting and things like that,” he added. “Now my shoulder is good, and I feel like I’ll be able to move forward and progress.”
Timmons is listed at 5-foot-10, same as a year ago, but his weight is up some eight pounds over the past eight months, and that added weight is not in his gut.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” Timmons said. “I’m able to get off my releases with the defensive backs and things like that. I’m healthier. I’m in better shape.”
“His body looks a lot better,” UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said of Timmons. “I’m pleased with where he’s at. His practice habits are a lot better. He’s catching the ball a lot more consistently. He gives us a big play threat.”
Brown likens Timmons to a guy he coached years ago at Troy (Ala.) University: Jerrel Jernigan.
Jernigan came to Troy as an option quarterback, but moved to wide receiver and developed into an NFL player.
“Jerrel was a lot like Ryan when he came in,” Brown said. “He hadn’t played a ton of true wideout, and when he came in, we used him a lot like we’ve used Ryan.
“But from the end of the 2007 season into the 2008 season, Jerrel changed his body and really learned how to play receiver. And he was an all-conference player and a third round (NFL) draft pick.
“He’s the kind of guy I’ve talked to Ryan about.”
Stoops also emphatically said Wednesday that he wants Timmons to be more involved in returning kicks this coming season.
Timmons dabbled with that this past fall, mostly on kickoffs, but didn’t do it enough to get comfortable.
“We’re working a bunch of guys back there, but I’d like to get Timmons back there and make him comfortable catching some punts,” Stoops said. “He’s doing better. He’s not as indecisive about the catching. He’s making good decisions.”
“It’s tougher from high school to college because they keep (kick) the ball a lot higher here,” Timmons said. “But I’ve done a lot more a lot more work in the offseason catching punts and kickoffs. And every day after practice, we catch punts. If coach needs me to do that, I’ll be able to do it. It’s another opportunity.’’
Timmons said he’s happy with his progress in all areas.
“I’m happy, but not satisfied,” Timmons said as he and his Wildcats look ahead to the spring game April 26 (3:30 p.m.). “I feel like I can get a lot better than I am now.”