John Denton's Knights Insider: Kamar Aiken Ready To Step Up

March 20, 2010

By John Denton

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For senior wide receiver Kamar Aiken, it's time.

It's time for him to go from being a really good receiver to a great one. It's time for him to bring the consistency where he's making the routine catches the same way he does the spectacular one. And it's time for him to follow in the massive footsteps of Brandon Marshall and Mike Walker and be the next great wide receiver to go from UCF to the NFL.

Aiken, a senior-to-be, knows that it's time. So too does head coach George O'Leary and assistant head coach/wide receivers coach David Kelly, who has repeatedly had skull sessions with Aiken about using this next season to become UCF's dominant go-to receiver.

And the urgency in Aiken's approach to his final season can be seen in the way he's worked already this offseason. He's re-written most of the record books in UCF's weight room, replacing Marshall as the strongest wide receiver in UCF history.

Aiken, a 6-foot-2, 218-pounder, improved his bench press max to 390 pounds this offseason, bettering Marshall's old record of 385 pounds. He squatted 570 pounds, topping Marshall's record of 550 pounds. And in the clean-and-jerk lift, he's already dome more than 360 pounds.

And already this spring, Aiken is seeing the benefits of the work he's put in off the field.

``I feel a lot stronger and I'm more confident in everything that I'm doing now,'' Aiken said. ``I don't know if it's because I'm a senior and I have been here so long, but I just feel confident in everything we're doing now.''

Aiken has every reason to be confident after catching nine touchdown passes last season, two of which came during a big finish in the St. Pete Bowl. Now, UCF's coaches want him to become more precise in his route running, focus more on the easy catches that have gotten away from him at times and more vocal as a senior leader.

Again, it's time for him to be UCF's go-to playmaker.

The leader of the receivers is Aiken, a senior-to-be who bounced back from an injury-plagued sophomore season. The Miami product caught nine touchdowns this past season, including stellar TD catches of 34 and seven yards in the St. Pete Bowl.

``Throughout his career here, he's been one who would make the unbelievable catches and then be unsuccessful on the ones he should catch,'' Kelly said. ``It has nothing to do with his physical ability; it was a mental thing and about having supreme confidence. Based on what I saw from him in the second half of the season and in the bowl game, he looked like he was ready to be that big-time, go-to guy. It's his chance to make this his team and step up. True success comes from the word that's overlooked more than any: consistency.''

O'Leary has pushed hard this offseason for UCF to make more use of their playmakers to get more ``chunk'' plays this season. O'Leary has already said the Knights plan to get the ball more to dazzling speedster Quincy McDuffie because of his ability to break long gainers.

Nico Flores was moved from quarterback to wide out because the Knights feel his athleticism will benefit the team greatly. Unheralded junior J.T. McArthur made several dazzling catches in Saturday's second practice of spring drills, including a diving grab on a 40-yard play.

And Marquee Williams, a redshirt freshman from Ocala, has been dazzling with his ability to turn short passes into long gainers. That is a point of emphasis for O'Leary, and he's noticed the work that Williams has done already.

``The kid who keeps catching my eye is Marquee Williams. That's the guy that I keep seeing because he's just so fluid out there,'' O'Leary said. ``He's concerned about the YAC (yards after catch) and not so much about the catch. The catch is simple for him. Other guys are so concerned about the catch, but he's looking at getting yards afterward. He has a chance to be a big play guy for us.''

That's a role that Aiken also hopes to fill. He caught 36 passes last season for 610 yards, but hopes to top the 1,000-yard mark with a big season of the Knights throwing the ball deep. Junior Rob Calabrese and true freshman Jeffrey Godfrey are battling for the starting quarterback job, and Aiken said it's on him to become a go-to receiver for the quarterbacks to help keep their confidence high.

He knows that a breakout season could him join Marshall and Walker in the NFL. He's focused on being more of a leader for UCF and finally reaching his maximum potential.

``They have been preaching to me from Day 1 about having a big season and I know it's about that time for me,'' Aiken said. ``I know what's at stake for me individually. But I also know that if the team doesn't do too good, things won't look so good for me. It's about the team being good first for me to get where I want to go.''


John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.