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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky assistant coach Steve Ortmayer is trying to find a starting tight end after losing three players to graduation. Here are his insights as Kentucky goes through its third week of spring practice.
Question: How are the tight ends looking?
Ortmayer: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The tight ends are coming along. Obviously this is the first time we have faced this situation in quite a while Ã¢â‚¬â€ or at least five years Ã¢â‚¬â€ in which we really donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have much experience. The one that had a chance to play for us some last year Ã¢â‚¬â€ Nick Melillo Ã¢â‚¬â€ is coming along well. He is a force in the passing game. We have to get him improved in the run game and improve his power on the line of scrimmage but he is coming along at a good pace.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Behind him we have young guys. They are all young and it starts with Anthony Kendrick, who is a converted wide receiver. He has been here a year now as a redshirt. He is a physical tight end who when he really gets the mental work down solid will have a good chance. He definitely passes the eye test. We just have to get him a little faster and get him used to being inside on the line of scrimmage instead of outside as a receiver. He has to develop more over the summer, but he also had a chance during the winter to learn some lessons, too. He is making progress. He just has to make it a little quicker.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have a redshirt freshman in Jordan Aumiller who we converted from defense. He has the ability we are looking for at the position and we are excited to be working with him because he is a fairly accomplished receiver. We have to get him better on the line also.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have sophomore transfer Ryan Wallace who was not eligible last year (after transferring from Colorado). He is more of an on the line of scrimmage tight end. He is making progress. The other one is a Cincinnati guy, Gabe Correll. He does a little bit of everything. He is decent in the passing game as well as the run game.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“With four of these guys other than Melillo, they all need experience and as much as they can get as quick as they can get it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Any chance highly-touted incoming freshman Alex Smith of Cincinnati could come in and help immediately at tight end?
Ortmayer: Ã¢â‚¬Å“If it is not too quick, too much for him. We may have to limit some of the things we do with him, but we fully expect him to step in and help this year. He has already graduated and is living in Lexington. He is around watching, looking and learning. He canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anything with the team, but he can be at practice and learn.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Is it fun, challenging or exasperating to have basically all new tight ends?
Ortmayer: Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all of that. They never seem to come along quite as quick as you want them to. All of a sudden when you think you have them to a certain point, they will take a step backward. That part is exasperating, but it is fun to work with. You get to help them fashion them in what will work for us offensively now in the schemes that we use.Ã¢â‚¬Â