April 17, 2012

Senior receiver still recovering from knee injury

Even if senior wide receiver Gene McCaskill isn't fully participating in spring practice, he's making his presence felt.

The UK training staff is taking precautions with McCaskill, who missed the entire 2010 season after tearing his ACL before the season began.

McCaskill was able to play in nine games last year, starting in five, but never felt 100 percent.

"I was near 100 percent and it would go down and come back up," McCaskill said. "It was frustrating but I took the offseason to focus on getting my knee stronger."

McCaskill has been participating in drills all spring, but is avoiding contact.

The injury played a large part in McCaskill having his worst statistical season since he's been at UK. The 6-foot, 198-pound South Carolina native hauled in nine catches for 85 yards and one touchdown.

Before the injury, McCaskill seasons showed promise in his freshman and sophomore years. He caught 15 passes as a true freshman in 2008 and 17 as a sophomore.

And while his production has been down, McCaskill realizes he's one of the oldest guys on the team, forcing himself into a leadership role.

"I'm most definitely a leader," McCaskill said. "I'll be a fifth-year senior and I know the ins-and-outs at UK, I know the offense, and I consider myself a leader."

When he sits out a drill that involves contact, McCaskill makes sure if he can't go physically, he takes it all in mentally. He says he's constantly in the ears of younger receivers, trying to make them, and the team better.

"I'm helping the young guys, teaching them when I'm not in," McCaskill said. "Always trying to get the team better."

He is a firm believer in actions speaking louder than words, which leaves him frustrated. He looks forward to the day where he won't be hampered by his knee and will be able to go 100 percent, showing the younger guys what to do, instead of telling.

"Once I come back and they watch the way I practice and go hard in the games they'll see how this is SEC football and how tough it is," McCaskill said. "It will be a good addition when I come back and am 100 percent."

Despite playing a limited role last season, McCaskill realized he was part of the problem at the wide receiver position.

Drops, running the wrong routes, miscues, and lack of effort were all chalked up to mental mistakes according to McCaskill. He promises it won't happen again.

"We won't have another season like last year, that's a definite statement," McCaskill said. "It was mental mistakes, there was a lot of stuff going on, but I'm going to make sure we focus this year and I know we'll be a lot better this year."

Last season was the first year since he's been at UK he had the winter off, and he despised it.

"I came here to win, I don't plan on losing," McCaskill said. "It was tough sitting at home watching bowl games. I don't like that feeling. I won't feel it again."

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