Following in the footsteps of Jacob Tamme, last season was really the first time that T.C. Drake, Maurice Grinter and Ross Bogue got to see the field consistently. As the offense struggled in the 2008, so did the tight ends.
Their run blocking execution was not where it needed to be and is one reason why a running game, which was supposed to be a strength, never took off.
The passing game last year was so inexperienced that it was tough for anyone to step up, especially the tight ends that didn’t have much experience running routes in game atmosphere.
With a year of experience under their belt now, look for all three seniors (Drake, Grinter, Bogue) to be better this season. Both in the passing game and on the ground.
The Combo: T.C. Drake (SR, 6′6″, 242)
Drake started eight games last season and appeared in all 13 games, catching 12 passes for 204 yards, which was good for 17 yards-per-catch. He best game was against Middle Tennessee, where he caught four balls for 82 yards.
At 6′6″, Drake has excellent size and decent speed. He is not really a breakaway threat in the passing game but as seen from last year, he can get you that 15-yard completion over the middle.
Sitting behind Tamme for his first two years, last year was really his first chance to shine and the passing game struggled all around. He will get the majority of the starts because of his ability to block and to catch balls.
The Athlete: Maurice Grinter (SR, 6′3″, 253)
Mo Grinter got three starts at tight end last season, in what was his first season playing the position. He played fullback as a freshman and sophomore, and even got a look at linebacker and safety in spring practice before his freshman season.
In 12 games at tight end last season, he made 12 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored the game-winning three-yard touchdown at Mississippi State.
Grinter is the most athletic of the three senior tight ends. If not for being moved around so much earlier in his career, he could have possibly already been an accomplished tight end.
He has big play ability and could lead tight ends in catches and yards despite Drake getting the starts.
The Blocker: Ross Bogue (SR, 6′5″, 244)
Many reported that Bogue played the best football of his life during spring practice. Still, do not expect for him to be much of a threat in the passing game. He is strictly a blocking end and will be in there, by himself, in a lot of run situations.
The Watchout: Nick Melillo (SO, 6′2″, 225)
Melillo moved from wide receiver to tight end in fall camp after playing wideout all spring. In spring play he impressed, scoring two touchdowns.
Because of his move to tight end, the transfer from Lindenwood needs to add more size and strength, but he has the best hands of the group that will see the field. Drake, Grinter and Bogue will get the majority of the snaps this season, but if given a chance, Melillo could be a threat in the passing game.
The Future: Anthony Kendrick (FR, 6′3″, 220)
Kendrick is an all-around athlete, who was a two-sport star (football, basketball) at Seven Lakes High School in Texas. He is strictly a receiving tight end, in the mold of former UK greats James Whalen and Jacob Tamme.
Look for Kendrick to redshirt this season, simply because there are three seniors at the top of the rotation. But, there is no doubt that Anthony Kendrick is the tight end of the future for the Wildcats.
Another possibility is that Brooks and Co. will decide to redshirt one of the seniors to ensure that they have some experience at the position in 2010. However, this situation is not very likely.