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Kentucky Football Player Preview: Dorian Baker returns to lead WR unit

After missing all of last season, Baker is looking to have a big year.

Dorian Baker Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Dorian Baker arrived at Kentucky in the fall of 2014 with big expectations. He was a top-50 wide receiver in his class, a rare four-star player to commit to play football in Lexington.

Four years later, Baker is still trying to establish himself as a dominant receiver. Although he has certainly left his mark, he has yet to realize the potential that he believes he has.

Dorian Baker

Position: Wide Receiver

Measurements: 6’3”, 211 lbs.

Hometown: Cleveland Heights, Ohio

School: Cleveland Heights High School

Recruit Rankings: No. 42 wide receiver in 2014

Baker’s career with the Kentucky Wildcats has unfortunately been dictated by injury. He missed the entirety of last season with a bad ankle injury. He missed three games early in 2016 due to a pulled hamstring, but never seemed like himself after returning to the field.

However, when he was healthy we got a glimpse of what Baker has to offer. In 2015, he caught 55 passes for 608 yards and three touchdowns. When he put up those numbers in just his sophomore year, many believed he was a superstar in the making.

However, he productivity took a big hit in limited appearances the following season. He only had 14 catches for 208 yards for the entire year, and many wondered if he would ever return to the form we had seen the previous season, though he did have some big catches down the stretch, including the Outback Bowl.

In addition to beginning the next season with an injury, Baker’s numbers may have also suffered due to the lack of Patrick Towles on the team. In the recent two seasons following Towles’ departure, the Wildcats haven’t necessarily been known for slinging the ball all over the field.

Despite injury, Baker is one of only 27 players to accumulate over 1,000 career receiving yards. Given his size and speed, if he is able to stay healthy he may be able to play himself into a position to be drafted next spring.

Given how important quarterback play is when it comes to assessing a receiver’s productivity, and taking his injury history into consideration, Baker’s super-senior year could go a few different directions.

Gunnar Hoak is much more of a pocket passer, and he would likely love to have Baker as a target on deep throws and jump balls near the end zone.

Terry Wilson, on the other hand, is more of a run-pass option guy and is likely to pick up as many yards with his feet as he does with his arm. Wilson could end up being a productive passer, but I do believe him being named the starter will mean fewer catches for everyone running routes.

Baker will need to step up as a leader this season, being the only senior receiver that has significant playing time.

“Right now, he’s another coach on the field for us because of his experience,” wide receivers coach Michael Smith said during spring practice. “He’s been really encouraging a lot of the young guys, trying to coach them up. We are very anxious to get him back.”

If Baker is not able to stand out with this young group of receivers, he would likely have a mediocre season and will be easily forgotten by Big Blue Nation. He would end up being another disappointing recruit that did not live up to expectations.

But if he gets the ball thrown his way often and he is able to put up numbers similar to those of his sophomore season, Dorian Baker will leave Lexington as a top-10 all-time wide receiver and a fan favorite for years to come.

Which Dorian Baker do you expect to see this fall?

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