Kentucky Tight Ends Look To Be A Bigger Factor in 2021

Aritcle written by:Freddie MaggardFreddie Maggard
Kentucky fans are banking on a new offense that leads to an upgrade in passing game results. The Wildcat offense will be led by former LA Rams assistant turned UK offensive coordinator Liam Coen. The Big Blue Nation has clamored for its tight ends to be utilized more since the days of Jacob Tamme; UK fans may just get what they’ve been asking for based on the LA Rams' numbers from last season. Rams tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett combined for 85 receptions, 938 yards, and six touchdowns a year ago. Higbee led the way with 44 catches, which ranked fourth on the team. He was followed by Everett’s 41. TE production was accomplished by the Rams deploying multiple tight end formations and bunch sets that led to the duo averaging 11 yards per reception. Kentucky’s tight end room is deep and talented. It is considered as one of the offense’s top position groups and is led by super-senior Justin Rigg. Rigg has played in 50 career games and started 23. He finished the 2020 season ranked fifth on the team with 12 receptions for 145 yards and one touchdown. The Ohio product averaged 12.1 yards per catch. Listed at 6’6, 263 pounds, Rigg possesses elite measurables and returned for an additional season in Lexington to increase his Draft chances. Keaton Upshaw flashed during the 2020 season. The 6’6, 250-pound junior led all UK tight ends with 16 catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 12 yards per grab and is poised for a breakout season under first-year playcaller Liam Coen. Upshaw is a Red Zone weapon that has shown the ability to win 50/50 balls due to his high-level athletic prowess. Brenden Bates is the Wildcats' third tight end. He benefitted from a strong spring performance. The 6’4, 248-pound junior has mainly been utilized as a blocker during his stay in Lexington; however, the Cincinnati, Ohio native has the potential to become a capable pass catcher under the right circumstances. Incoming true freshman Jordan Dingle joins the mix after a highly successful career at Bowling Green High School. Dingle led the Purples to a state championship as a senior. He caught 120 passes for 1,450 yards and 12 touchdowns during his high school career. The 6’5, 235-pound rookie is talented and could see first-year playing time.

What Does All This Mean? 

Receivers Wan’Dale Robinson and Josh Ali look to be the Wildcats' primary pass catchers in Coen’s new system. But, the tight ends could see an increase in targets and opportunities which should please the BBN’s desire to be more TE heavy. Coach Vince Marrow’s group is a talented and veteran collection that can be an offensive strength. With very little access during spring practice, the exact nature of Coen’s offense remains a mystery. A true picture of the coordinator’s intent may not be revealed until the Cats take on Missouri on September 11. UK’s pass-catching strength lies within two receivers that can operate out of the slot in Wan’Dale Robinson and Josh Ali. The addition of talented tight ends could act as a force multiplier that will loosen the box for running back Chris Rodriguez. Expect UK to use multiple tight ends through various formations and personnel groupings. Scheming the TEs to be more of a factor in the passing game will be a priority. Hurry up, football season.

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