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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Tight ends figure to be bigger factors for Arizona football

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Rebecca Noble

Arizona football tight ends Trevor Wood (88) and Josh Kern (17) take a breather during Arizona’s football practice on Monday at Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium. Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez said he envisions tight ends getting more reps this spring in preparation for next season.

Arizona football did not complete a pass to a tight end all last season, despite having four tight ends on the roster. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez instead chose to shift wide receiver Austin Hill from out wide to line up tight in a hybrid role.

Hill succeeded for the most part and ended his final collegiate season second on the team in receptions (49) and third in both receiving yards (635) and receiving touchdowns (four). The coaching staff got Hill to bulk up, and he helped fill in from a blocking standpoint, too.

Now, Hill is gone, and there is a gap at tight end from both a blocking and receiving standpoint.

A lack of understanding of the playbook was one of the reasons why Hill lined up as a tight end, and guys like Josh Kern and Trevor Wood didn’t see much time outside of special teams.

“As a player, you’re going to be upset when you’re not in the game,” Kern said. “But you know why they were doing it: We weren’t ready to play, and Austin was ready to play. So, you can’t really complain too much about that.”

There are five tight ends currently on the 2015 roster, with Kern, Wood and redshirt freshman Alexei Oro remaining from the 2014 team. Newcomers Darrell Cloy Jr. and Matt Morin comprise the rest of the position’s depth.

“I think Josh is ready now to fully play at that position,” Rodriguez said. “Then you’ve got Trevor Wood and Darrell Cloy [Jr.] and Matt Morin. There are at least four guys there that will get a lot of reps. That’s going to be fun to see what we can do with them.”

Of that five, Kern and Wood look to be the most likely candidates to help fill the void at tight end.

Kern, a former quarterback, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 229 pounds and Wood is listed at 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds. Each player accounts for different ends of the tight end spectrum as Kern is the second smallest tight end, weight wise, and Wood is the second biggest.

Both say their work in the offseason to get bigger, faster and stronger mentally has put them in a position to make an impact next season.

“It’s all about the offseason,” Kern said. “Trying to gain weight, get stronger and learn the playbook.” 

The last Rich Rodriguez tight end to have a solid impact was Terrence Miller in the 2013 season. Miller hauled in 40 receptions for 467 yards and one touchdown in his senior season and at 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds, was able to help out from a blocking standpoint, too.

Much like Hill, Miller was listed on the roster as a wide receiver but played the majority of his snaps inside and was recruited as a wide receiver out of high school.

Rodriguez said that he expects natural tight ends to have a bigger role in the upcoming season.

“Last year, we didn’t have any [tight ends] that we thought were ready,” Rodriguez said. “This year, we’ve got at least four guys that will rep and even a guy returning like Josh Kern, who’s had a great offseason.”

With eight more spring ball practices to go, Rodriguez and his staff should have plenty of time to get an even better look at who could get regular season reps at tight end for the Wildcats in the upcoming season.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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