UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 12 years and nine years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography
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Saturday features the last major scrimmage before the Blue/White Game that brings spring practice to an end on April 24 and it sure sounds like Mike Hartline is emerging as the favorite to lead the three-man race for the starting quarterback position.
Head coach Joker Phillips continued to praise Hartline's passing after this morning's practice at Commonwealth Stadium.
"I think Mike is throwing the ball well," Phillips said. "The other two have to continue to come so tomorrow is a big day."
Tight end Nick Melillo said Hartline's confidence is coming through in how he serves in his role as a leader.
"Mike's been a leader since I got here two years ago," Melillo told tomleachky.com. "Randall (Cobb), Mike and Derrick (Locke) are the leaders of our offense. If there's any confusion -- the defense makes a change -- he knows the offense like the back of his hand and he's playing with a lot of confidence."
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Melillo is a tight end candidate who hopes to follow the path of Jacob Tamme -- a converted wideout who learned to blossom as a tight end because of his pass-catching and route-running skills.
That's the book on Melillo, who got spot duty -- primarly in passing situations -- last fall. He knows that his ability to improve his blocking will improve his chances of staying on the field longer.
"I definitely need to get better on my blocking," said Melillo, who caught two touchdown passes in last year's Blue/White Game. "My quickness gives me an edge. I just need to learn how to use that to my advantage.
"If I go and watch film and want to learn how to do something, I watch Jacob. We need a tight end that can block in the run game and make plays in the passing game. I just want to add that part of the game to my game and become a great blocker."
What needs to improve?
''I'd say 90 percent of it is technique," Melillo said. "I'm 235 (pounds). It's just about being able to use my quickness."
Steve Ortmayer, who coaches the tight ends, said Melillo is making good progress and he adds that two untested redshirt freshmen, Jordan Aumiller and Anthony Kendrick, have made significant strides forward this week.