UK Football

UK tight ends: Senior Kendrick might be hidden gem

Anthony Kendrick took a pass upfield for a gain during the Blue-White scrimmage April 21, 2012.
Anthony Kendrick took a pass upfield for a gain during the Blue-White scrimmage April 21, 2012. Herald-Leader

Six catches for 45 yards. Zero trips to the end zone.

Not exactly inspiring statistics.

But still, Kentucky tight ends coach Vince Marrow sees something special in senior Anthony Kendrick.

"I played the position for years and, just talking to my buddies, scouts who come around, they see it, too," Marrow said of Kendrick, whose injuries and academic issues have kept him from playing a snap since 2011. "They're saying they didn't know who he was, and then they notice him. He should be a guy who can do something special out there."

Marrow should know. He played tight end professionally for five different NFL teams and also in Europe. He had to go back and find film of the 6-foot-3, 233-pound former wide receiver from Katy, Texas, to see what he was getting.

He would rewind. He would pause. He would rewind again.

He started to see something in Kendrick.

"Explosive, a big guy who can run," Marrow assessed. "Big vertical presence, good hands, good route runner, but the thing I like best about him is his physicality. He's a physical guy who can run."

He's the kind of player that could thrive in an offense like the one run by offensive coordinator Neal Brown.

Last season at Texas Tech, 6-foot-5, 257-pound Jace Amaro was the Red Raiders' third-leading receiver and the most productive tight end in the Big 12 despite missing six games with a spleen injury.

Amaro finished with 25 catches for 409 yards and four scores in seven games last season.

Kendrick has that potential.

"With his athletic ability, he's going to pose mismatches for a lot of defenses," Marrow said. "Potentially, he has the ability, from what I've seen, to play beyond here. It's the mental side. If he gets the mental side down, then our offense is going to be a little more dangerous.

Kendrick, who missed all of spring practices with a Linsfranc injury where his big toe separated from the rest of his toes, had two screws put in his foot to stabilize it in the off-season.

Because Kendrick missed all of last season with academic problems, Brown said he had to go all the way back to practice film from the spring of 2012 to evaluate the tight end's potential.

"I really didn't know what to expect out of him," Brown said of Kendrick. "But he's had a really nice camp. He can do a lot of things. He's versatile."

Kendrick has seen his football life flash before him in the classroom and in a hospital room.

He's trying to seize the opportunity that he was never sure he'd have again.

"It was very difficult mentally and emotionally," he said of first being academically ineligible and then getting injured. "But it was a learning lesson for me to get myself straight, physically, mentally, academically, just get ready for a great season, end it on a high."

He called the past few seasons a "life learning lesson.

"It taught me to appreciate things, take advantage of things, just when I got back to excel and do my best and not let any of that bad stuff happen again," he said.

Scouting the tight ends

The main man: Anthony Kendrick has drawn tons of pre-season praise from his new coaches with a slimmed down body and a physical presence. The 6-foot-3, 233-pound senior from Texas hasn't played in a game since 2011, but coaches think he can be a difference maker, especially in the passing game.

The supporting cast: Give him the situation and tight ends coach Vince Marrow believes he has a tight end who can help. The former NFL tight end is high on Kendrick and fellow senior Jordan Aumiller, whom Marrow said has good size and blocking ability. "But what's impressed me most lately is how he's running, getting up the field." The Cats also have other options in Steven Borden, a junior college transfer, who is still getting used to the system and speed as well as stalwart Tyler Robinson, who has shown flashes of potential.

Outlook: A position that has been underused since Jacob Tamme played it in the 2007-08 season and had 56 catches for 619 yards and six touchdowns, the UK tight end could see a resurgence in offensive coordinator Neal Brown's system, with lots of talk about two-tight end sets. Marrow likes how many options Kentucky has at the position. "I'm happy with all five of those guys," he said. "You hear some coaches be political and they say that. No, I like all five of those guys. Because they all can do something to help us." The key, he said, is figuring out where to put them so they can have the most success within the scheme.

Jennifer Smith


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