Roster Rundown: No. 19 Akeem Hayes
Freshmen and established veteran starters tend to occupy center stage when pundits talk about a team in the preseason, but players who have slowly come along in the program, gaining experience and knowledge of the playbook along the way also have plenty to offer.
That's the group wide receiver Akeem Hayes would fall into entering his redshirt sophomore season.
He's next up in Cats Illustrated's Roster Rundown series.
Background: For a while it appeared as though Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade Madonna would be a reliable pipeline for Kentucky but that has slowed to a trickle since Hayes entered the program. Former high school teammates Davoan Hawkins, BJ Alexander, and Josh Ali also attended the school, although Hayes and Ali are the only two that are still around.
Hayes redshirted as a true freshman at Kentucky in 2018 and after getting his academics in order was eligible for the final nine games of last season, seeing some time sporadically.
2020 Outlook: There is a chance for Hayes to break into the wide receiver rotation because of his familiarity with the playbook and the need for receivers to step up. Clevan Thomas was the slot receiver who became the starter in the second half of last season but in terms of players who have been around the program Hayes is right there as someone who could take snaps in that spot.
With a new wide receivers coach taking over in Jovon Bouknight there is an opportunity for everyone to start with a fresh slate, so there is a chance the rotation gets shaken up. With spring practice being shut down and players being home for so long, a lot might be decided based on how players spent their months in quarantine and away from school.
We'll know more about Hayes' potential readiness to contribute when fall practice reports begin.