Breaking down Dane Key's record-setting season
Barion Brown wasn't Kentucky's only record-setting wide receiver in 2022, and he's not the only young returning wideout the Wildcats can build around in the years ahead.
Dane Key set a freshman record for Kentucky with six touchdown receptions in the season that just passed.
The freshman from Lexington and UK legacy had 37 receptions for 519 yards to go along with those scores, and all of those numbers are among the best ever posted for a first-year UK pass-catcher.
Key didn't have a 100-yard receiving game, but he had more than one reception in 10 of Kentucky's 13 contests, and given the offense's issues it's fair to wonder what numbers Key could have posted under better circumstances.
He had a touchdown reception in each of Kentucky's first three games, which helped the Cats get off to another strong start under Mark Stoops, and then had two touchdown grabs in UK's 21-17 win against Missouri, so his contributions proved to be decisive that week (4 catches, 53 yards).
Key would also reel in a touchdown pass in Kentucky's 26-13 win against Louisville, its fourth straight win in the Governor's Cup.
The great majority of Key's contributions (363 yards) came in the first half of games, so Kentucky did a better job of getting him the ball early than after halftime.
Key is more of a possession receiver than Brown, his freshman counterpart, and that not only showed up in his record-setting touchdown total, but in the fact that Kentucky converted third downs five times on throws to Key. Overall, 28 of Key's 37 catches created a new set of downs.
PFF gave Key an overall score of 69.3 for the season, which resulted from a 71.6 receiving mark and a 56.7 run block score. He was flagged for four penalties on the season, the same number of times Brown was flagged, tied for second most on the offense behind only Jeremy Flax.
Key had a fumble against Youngstown State but was charged with only one dropped pass all season, impressive for a true freshman in the SEC getting as much playing time as he had.
PFF gave Key and Brown almost identical receiving and overall scores so it really is a case of WR1A and 1B in a lot of respects.
Key was lined up spread out wide ten times as often (303 snaps) as he was in the slot (36 snaps). His average depth of target was 14.2 yards, so Kentucky was getting the ball to him downfield.
Key will enter the 2023 season as one of the top sophomore receivers in the SEC, with the apparent plan being to build the offense around him along with Devin Leary, Barion Brown, and a few others.