UK Football

He played defense at his Lexington high school. This spring, walk-on is UK’s starting tight end.

Lexington Catholic’s Will Roden, left, tackled Madison Central’s Jabari Huguely during a high school game in 2016. Now Roden, a walk-on, is getting most of the first-team snaps at tight end for short-handed Kentucky.
Lexington Catholic’s Will Roden, left, tackled Madison Central’s Jabari Huguely during a high school game in 2016. Now Roden, a walk-on, is getting most of the first-team snaps at tight end for short-handed Kentucky.

When fall camp begins in a few months, there will be a packed tight end position room with C.J. Conrad all the way back from foot surgery, Justin Rigg returning from a scary injury on Monday that lacerated his spleen, some walk-ons and two new signees.

“It’s thin now, but I’ve got four quality tight ends in June,” tight ends coach Vince Marrow said Tuesday. “I’m excited about that.”

By June, UK will have added signees Brenden Bates and Keaton Upshaw, both highly regarded players. It will be a position with lots of depth and options.

But this spring, Marrow is making due with some fill-in tight ends like left tackle Landon Young, who helped UK with blocking from that spot in some bigger offensive sets on Tuesday.

“As we go through the spring we’ll move some of the offensive linemen there just to get some work in,” Coach Mark Stoops of the vacant tight end spot. “We’ll move some of the wide-outs when we’re in passing sets and things like that, so we’ll make it work. We just need to get the looks.”

For now, Marrow is coaching up former Lexington Catholic defensive standout Will Roden.

“He’s been thrown in the fire as the starting tight end right now,” Marrow said Tuesday. “He’s going to be a pleasant surprise, not just for me. All the other coaches are noticing him. A very tough kid. He made about five catches out there today.”

Jaylin Bannerman, another defensive player who was moved over to tight end last season, is no longer working with the tight ends, Marrow confirmed.

“Back on defense,” he said of Bannerman. “He’s looking pretty good on defense. That was comfortable for him.”

Roden was a three-year letterman at defensive lineman for Lexington Catholic. The 6-foot-3, 226-pound sophomore led the state in tackles by a defensive lineman with 53 his senior season and also served as an H-back (mostly blocking, according to his bio) on offense.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

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