UK Football

Recruited as outside linebacker, Kentucky’s Bannerman catching on at tight end

Jaylin Bannerman, who caught a pass during practice on Aug. 22, has switched positions from outside linebacker to tight end.
Jaylin Bannerman, who caught a pass during practice on Aug. 22, has switched positions from outside linebacker to tight end.

Kentucky’s Vince Marrow has seen plenty of NFL teams draft tight ends based on potential, not necessarily their blocking ability or their number of touchdown catches in college.

So the Cats’ tight end coach tried to put himself in the shoes of an NFL general manager-type when assessing outside linebacker Jaylin Bannerman, who recently left that crowded position group to join the tight ends.

“It’s going to take some time,” Marrow said of the position transition for Bannerman, a redshirt freshman from Pickerington, Ohio. “But I like what Jaylin brings to the tight end room.”

Bannerman has the position intangibles down at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds. He’s a speedy player who also played basketball and specialized in high jump for the track and field team at Pickerington Central.

“I’ve seen them draft guys like that, who have the athletic ability and can get down the field,” Marrow said. “You can teach the other parts. That’s what they pay me for, I can teach that part. That won’t be a problem.”

The learning curve won’t be as steep for Bannerman, who played tight end during his first two years of high school before moving over to defense full-time. A couple of his scholarship offers were to play tight end at smaller schools.

“Coming out of high school, I Ioved both offense and defense, so if I have an opportunity to play offense, I’m going to take it,” said the soft-spoken redshirt freshman.

He’s excited about the idea of playing tight end, but it’s played differently at this level than it was in high school.

“I’m very good at catching passes,” he said. “That tool never left me. Blocking is what’s the hard part. In high school, we never really blocked, I just ran routes for the tight end.”

In less than two weeks in the new position group, Bannerman — who was listed as the co-second string defensive end/linebacker along with Jamar “Boogie” Watson and behind junior Denzil Ware — has picked up a lot of the nuances.

“He’s really natural,” senior tight end Greg Hart said of the newcomer. “He’s an athletic guy. Coming in here and getting the technique down. … He has a ton of potential and he’s going to do well for us in the future here.”

But first, Bannerman has to learn the plays.

“The toughest thing has been learning the whole playbook on short notice, but I’m getting it down,” he said.

The one positive is he can already predict what the defense is going to do.

Having that previous experience on defense will be a good thing for Kentucky, his coaches said.

“The blocking part is still coming, but he’s a defensive guy, so he has the mentality of being tough, and he can run,” Marrow said.

Coach Mark Stoops said the coaches are searching for the best fit for the size and athleticism of Bannerman.

“We feel like we have a lot of depth there,” he said of the outside linebacker spots. “He’s a big body. We’re trying to move him around, possibly inside on the defensive line. Give him an opportunity maybe at tight end as well.”

News and notes

Kentucky officials clarified a roster error, which had wide receiver Kayaune Ross listed as a junior this season. He attended two junior colleges, which technically makes him a senior with just this season of eligibility remaining.

Because he battled a back injury for much of last season, it’s still possible UK could apply for and be granted a medical waiver that would allow him to play another season. But those aren’t finalized until the end of the season.

▪  Mark Stoops’ weekly call-in show will resume on Monday and will run from 6-7 p.m. each Monday of the season. The Paul Miller Ford Mark Stoops Show hosted by Tom Leach gives fans a chance to ask questions to the coach by tweeting @UKSportsNetwork or calling (800) 606-GAME.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

Season opener

Kentucky at Southern Miss

4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2 (CBS Sports Network)