Vaught's Views: Tamme knows he must still get better

April 23, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - If Jacob Tamme was playing any other position on offense and doing so well, he would be the talk of Kentucky's spring practice.

Instead, he knows the Wildcats are so deep at wide receiver that every practice, including Saturday's Blue-White Game at Commonwealth Stadium, is important and that he has to continue impressing the UK coaches.

"We just have a group of great receivers," said Tamme, the former Boyle County three-sport standout. "When you get opportunities to make plays, you better make them every day."

Tamme has been doing that. After redshirting last season and being slowed by a back injury during off-season workouts, he's emerged as a legitimate contender for extensive playing time next season.


Coaches and players agree that Tamme has the best hands on the team, something that is no surprise to anyone who ever saw him play for the Rebels. If the ball is near him, he's going to catch it.

He also has shown the same uncanny knack at UK that he did at Boyle for finding openings in the defense. That's how he had four catches in last week's scrimmage.

"I got some balls thrown my way and fortunately I caught the ones that were thrown at me," Tamme said. "That's all I can do. When the ball comes your way, you'd better focus on catching it because we have a lot of guys that can make plays."

Kentucky does at receiver. The Wildcats may have question marks at tight end, quarterback, running back and the offensive line, but they are blessed with a quality group of receivers.

Just look at his competition

Just look at who Tamme is competing with for playing time:

* Keenan Burton had 20 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns last season when the made the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team. He's also shown he can break big plays running the ball on reverses.

* Glenn Holt Jr. has played in 24 games, including five he started last year, and has 18 catches for 195 yards and three scores.

* Tommy Cook, a senior, has made 63 catches for 796 yards and six touchdowns the three previous years. He missed part of last season with an ankle injury, but he's healthy now and is considered the most physical and best blocking receiver.

* Scott Mitchell, a junior college transfer, has shown he has the size, speed and hands to be a major contributor for the Cats in his first season.

* John Logan, a redshirt freshman like Tamme, has run the 40-yard dash in 4.2 seconds, the fastest time of any receiver.

* Gerad Parker has played sparingly the previous three years, but he's been at the top of the rotation most of spring practice. He knows how to run routes and also seldom drops a pass.

* Lonnell DeWalt, a signee from Warren Central, is regarded as one of the nation's top high school receivers and is expected to play as a true freshman next season.

Still, receivers coach Joker Phillips and offensive coordinator Ron Hudson are both Tamme backers. They like his size, route-running ability and the way he catches the ball. Both insist he'll be in the playing rotation next season.

Tight end could be in his future

Tight end could still be in his future. He catches the ball better than any tight end UK now has and with another year of weightlifting, he certainly could put on more than enough weight to become a productive tight end. Remember James Whalen, who just re-signed with Dallas? He was not the big, bulky tight end but he could run routes and catch the ball. So can Tamme.

But that move is at least a year away. For now, Tamme is still concentrating on what it will take to get him on the field next season.

"I need to learn to read coverages better," Tamme said. "Our defense does a real good job of switching things up. They will show one coverage and then when the ball is snapped, they are in a different coverage. A lot of our routes adjust to that. Everything changes depending on the defense."

How hard were high school defenses to read?

"You never had to worry about the coverage changing when the ball was snapped in high school," Tamme said. "In high school, you knew what the defense was in before you came out of the huddle. You knew what defense they were going to run. Here you see something coming out of the huddle, you get to the line and the defense audibles, and then they change again before the ball is snapped.

"It takes a lot of film study and looking at where defensive backs line up to know what to do. It's a lot of work besides what you do on the field. That's a big difference between here and high school."

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