There was no time for wide receivers coach Pat Washington to critique DeMarcus Sweat's 22-yard touchdown pass against Western Kentucky on Saturday. The freshman wideout caught the pass in the middle of the field, spinning around defenders to stretch across the goal line and tie the game with 24 seconds left.
After the game, though, Washington had more time to examine the play. Spectacular as it was, there was one big problem with it.
"I see it, then I watch it on tape and I go 'Boy, that was the wrong route,'" Washington said.
It's not unusual for the coaches to see Sweat in the wrong place at the right time. But even when he's not in the right place, he's making big plays.
Sweat leads UK with 252 all purpose yards despite just nine touches through the first three games. He has three catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns and six kickoff returns for 172 yards.
"The problem with Sweat, we're not getting it in his hands enough," Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.
Sweat was listed as a possible starter for Saturday on the depth chart distributed Monday. He's 12th on the team in receptions, but is tied for fifth in receiving yards. His 56-yard touchdown reception against Kent State, a short screen that Sweat took untouched into the end zone, is the longest pass play the Wildcats have had this season.
It's plays like that that help Sweat stand out in the coaches' minds. When they see a play like that, though, they also see his mistakes.
"He's good at catching and running after he catches it," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "He's not real good at being where he's supposed to be. We're working on getting him where he's supposed to be."
Meanwhile, they'll try to bring him along as quickly as possible. Sweat roomed with quarterback Maxwell Smith during fall camp, and they remain close. When they pass by each other in the halls, Smith quizzes Sweat by giving him a play call. Sweat has to respond with the proper place for him to line up and his route.
Washington is also catering his meetings to help accommodate the younger receivers. While veterans like La'Rod King, Aaron Boyd, Gene McCaskill and E.J. Fields, all seniors, make up a large part of the receiving corps, there's a gap after them. Sophomore Demarco Robinson and redshirt freshman Daryl Collins rank third and fourth, respectively, in receptions on the team. Then there are true freshmen, like Sweat and A.J. Legree.
Sweat is learning, but there's still a long way to go.
"You know if you want to get on the field, you're going to try to stay on it as much as possible," Sweat said.
Washington still has to catch himself when Sweat makes a mistake. Often when he isn't sure of his assignment, it's because it's on a play he's only run two or three times.
Those situations arise more than any coach would like.
"He doesn't have just one moment," Washington said. "He has, like, four in a row."
But he'll get chances going forward. Sanders said the Wildcats need to get the ball to Sweat "as much as we can." He's made enough big plays so far to earn at least that much trust.
"When he's on the field, there's a good chance somebody's band is going to play," Sanders said. "We just have to make sure it's ours and not the other team's."
Phillips' situation unchanged
Through a spokesman, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said on Tuesday that his stance on Joker Phillips hasn't changed since the season began.
"As with every sport, the situation will be evaluated at the end of the season," Barnhart said through UK athletics spokesman Tony Neely.
Barnhart is out of the office and unable to speak to reporters, Neely said.