Scouting the Cats: Tight ends

UK tight ends: Waiting for a starter to emerge

As many as seven players competing for spots

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 22, 2011 

Jordan Aumiller has the most experience at tight end for Kentucky. He started eight games last season and had 18 catches for 193 yards.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

  • Scouting the tight ends

    The main man: There are five players back with experience at the tight-end spot from last season, and there has been no final decision made about who will get the start. Jordan Aumiller (6-4, 231 pound, so.) has the most experience with 18 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown last season.

    The supporting cast: There are seven players who have been mentioned as potential starters or backups. They are Aumiller, Anthony Kendrick (6-3, 264, so.), Nick Melillo (6-2, 226, sr.), Tyler Robinson (6-3, 252, so.), Ronnie Shields (6-5, 240, redshirt fr.), Gabe Correll (6-5, 229, fr.), Alvin Dupree (6-4, 229, fr.).

    Newcomer to watch: Names that have come up most recently include Robinson, who had 11 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown last season, playing in 11 games with three starts as a true freshman. But coaches also seem to like the physical play and blocking of Shields.

    Outlook: Depth at a position is never a bad thing, so the coaches feel good that they'll find the right fit at tight end to put on the field. Don't be surprised to see all of them on the field at some spot before the end of the season.

    Jennifer Smith

  • This is the fourth in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position.Coming Tuesday: Running backs

Greg Nord does not have an enviable task.

The Kentucky tight ends coach has six or seven players who would all love a starting spot or even a backup spot.

All of them have pluses and minuses. They all have different attributes and skills.

And Nord has a tough decision to make before the Cats' season opener on Sept. 1.

He has been waiting patiently for a tight end to emerge.

"We know that soon a guy is going to take hold of the position, be it mentally, be it physically, emotionally," he said last week. "Everything is going to come into it. One guy's going to rise up and take control of the position."

There are five returnees who have game experience at the spot, players such as Jordan Aumiller (6-4, 231-pound sophomore) who started eight games last season and had 18 catches for 193 yards and one touchdown.

Or Anthony Kendrick (6-3, 264-pound sophomore), who played mostly on special teams, but started the last two games of last season.

Or Nick Melillo (6-2, 226-pound senior) who has played in 20 games with one start, including 20 games last season.

Or Tyler Robinson (6-3, 252-pound sophomore) who played in 11 games with three starts as a true freshman. He had 11 catches for 80 yards and a score.

Or Ronnie Shields (6-5, 240-pound, red-shirt freshman), who has added 20 pounds in the weight room and whose physical play has caught the coaches' eyes.

And don't forget Gabe Correll (6-5, 229-pound freshman) or Alvin Dupree (6-4, 229 freshman) who is reportedly seeing action on defense, too.

While Nord's job isn't going to be easy this week, neither is playing tight end in UK's system.

"They need to be a complete player," head coach Joker Phillips explained. "Our tight ends, we're asking them to be a stationary tight end and block. We're asking them to be pass catchers for us, and we're asking them to play special teams. You can't have tight ends on your team that can't play special teams."

While Nord's task isn't enviable, both the special teams coach and the head coach say they're excited by the depth that has developed.

"Some of them are starting to fight a little harder and that's exciting to see because I've been here when we didn't have competition at a lot of positions," Phillips said. "Some didn't have to compete as hard because they knew the guy behind them wasn't a threat."

Even as the week wound down on Friday, Nord seemed torn about who to put where.

The battle has been that close, that balled up, all camp.

"I've been real pleased with the work Aumiller's done," he said. "Ronnie Shields has come a long way; getting Tyler Robinson back (from injury) is going to be certainly much needed. Anthony Kendrick and Melillo, they're in here battling their tails off for time, as well."

Aumiller said there are no plays off during fall camp because you know there's a guy behind you who would love to seize the spot.

There is a push to be perfect with every cut, every catch, every block, he said.

"You have to go out there and do your best every single day," said Aumiller, a former Boyle County standout. "You can't take a day off or a rep off if you want a starting spot."

Aumiller hopes that his skill set will help him rise above the crowded pack.

"I'm pretty multiple," he said. "I'm able to do all the things that our offense expects our tight ends to do."

It's been frustrating waiting, he admitted, but it helps that the players all get along.

"We're all good buddies," Aumiller said. "We all compete with each other, but we're all good friends, which makes a difference."

Nord hopes that Saturday's scrimmage film will be able to show some clear separation. A decision is likely to come early this week.

And just because a player doesn't get put in the early rotation, don't count him out, the tight ends coach said.

"I'm not saying they're not all going to be called on to help us," he said. "Every one of them is going to have to do something for us this year."

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service