Izayah Cummings’ move to tight end has been “surprisingly natural”


Darren Green, Izayah Cummings, Josaih Hayes, JuTahn McClain, and Justin Rogers (left to right) pose for a photo during the UK football media day on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Barkley Truax

Kentucky’s tight end room is as deep as ever, despite Keaton Upshaw’s season-ending injury.

Following the expected starter’s injury, the hole at the end of the line was filled by sophomore wide receiver Izayah Cummings, who volunteered to change positions over the summer.

His coaches seem to be all in on his move to tight end as well. 

“(He’s) very natural, surprisingly natural” head coach Mark Stoops said about the move. “He’s not there yet, but he has that understanding and he fits in better than I thought he would earlier.”

“I love it,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said about the switch. “He’s such a good kid … we’re trying to find roles for more people to contribute on the offensive side of the ball.”

The coaches love it and so does he. “It’s been a great transition, I’m really enjoying it,” Cummings said after practice on Tuesday.

The six-foot-three, 230lb Louisville native said the transition has mostly been about him getting bigger. He plans on gaining another five to ten pounds before the season opener on Sept. 4. 

“He really is taking well to it,” tight ends coach Vince Marrow said. “When I recruited him out of high school, he was almost 230 (lbs), so you know he’s going to play receiver, but you think, ‘man, is he going to grow into an H-back?’” Marrow finally got his wish.

Marrow’s most impressed with how tough Cummings is. He says most receivers that make the move to tight end are still soft from not having to block the bigger bodied front seven.

Speaking to his toughness, Stoops believes Cummings will help open the run game. “With the way we block and the outside zone and not having to dig out these SEC defensive linemen all day long, it’s a little different. You can utilize some of these athletic receivers.”

“I like his tenacity,” Marrow said. “He’s picking up stuff pretty well. He’s a one-on-one matchup nightmare.”

The biggest differences he’s noticed since making the move have included techniques, blocking and aggression. “The people I’m blocking now are linebackers and safeties, so it’s pretty different from the corners that I’m used to,” Cummings said.

He feels that it’s his responsibility to put his team in a position to win games. “If this is what helps the team, then I’m going to do it,” Cummings said.

With the new 12-personnel set, Cummings and fellow tight ends Brenden Bates, Justin Rigg, Jordan Dingle and others will be arguably the most crucial part of the team next season with the two tight end sets, and Cummings is ready to take on the challenge.