Tight Ends Use Unorthodox Methods to Improve

Huntington, WV -- For the first five minutes of football practice every day, Marshall tight end Gregg Kellett doesn't catch a football. Kellett and the other tight ends catch racquetballs. That's right, small, 2-inch in diameter racquetballs. The drill is designed to improve catching ability. It works.

"It's all about following the ball with your eyes," Kellett said after practice on Thursday. "And when you have a little ball like that, you've really got to follow it in."

The drill, designed by Marshall head coach Bob Pruett and tight ends coach Bill Legg, was the answer to a problem that the coaching staff had. "When I got down here, I was told that the tight ends needed to catch the ball more effectively, more efficiently, and more consistently," Legg commented. "We started investigating different ways we could improve our kids' hands."

MU tight end Gregg Kellett concentrates on racquetball in practice

"We ran across this drill with the racquetball, for two reasons: One, they're small, so it makes you focus on a small point. You've got to get your hands close together. Two, they're very bouncy, so you've got to have soft hands."

As unorthodox as the drill may look/sound, the effectiveness it has produced has left an impression on both Legg and Kellett. In fact, Kellett spent much time over the summer just catching the racquetball instead of a football. Once practices go underway this week, the difference was notable to Kellett.

"The football just looks a lot bigger," Kellett said, making it easier to catch. Not physically, but mentally, according to Legg. "That's part of the psyche," Legg added. "It's just like in basketball, when they put the extra rim on the inside to force you into being more effective. In actuality, it's creating a softer feel, it's getting to understand where their hands need to be in order to catch the ball."

"That's the actuality of it. The psyche of the whole thing is, after catching that racquetball for five, ten minutes a day, that football starts looking huge."

As mentioned earlier, Kellett took his racquetball with him everywhere over the summer, performing catching drills whenever the opportunity arose. "I was doing it all summer. I was just throwing it off the wall, every which way," Kellett said.

So when you see Kellett and company hauling in the passes from Byron Leftwich this coming season, just remember those tiny little racquetballs, and the big results they produced.

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