Hamlett Leads Talented Tight Ends

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – He simply gets better every year, and if that trend continues he could be on the verge of a breakout season. But that's not what North Carolina starting tight end Jon Hamlett is all about.

Every time numbers are brought up with Hamlett, he quickly diverts the conversation to his team-first philosophy and his desire to make his final college season one of the Tar Heels' best.

"I'm not a very individual person," Hamlett said. "My goal is to help our team. We want to win games and go back to a bowl game."

UNC tight ends coach John Gutekunst is high on Hamlett's potential for a big 2006. On his first day back from a self-described leisurely spring break, Hamlett impressed the coaching staff during full contact drills on Wednesday.

"He had a tremendous practice today," Gutekunst said. "He's really developing into an above average blocker. Now he's up to 260 pounds, and the pros measured him at 6-4.

"Jon made tremendous improvement during the offseason last year. He got stronger and bigger and was able to apply that. In the course of the season, his feet got better, too.

"He's a dedicated kid."

Since getting early playing time as a true freshman in 2003, Hamlett's statistical progression as a receiver reads like a time-tested blue chip stock, with moderate, but steady growth. He's increased his catches and total yards each season – 21 for 212 yards and a touchdown last year.

"Now the game is easy," Hamlett said. "I know how to practice."

In new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti's system, Gutekunst said he expects his tight ends to get a few more looks in the passing game than in the past. Richard Quinn, 6-4, 235, has room for growth physically as well, and he brings the big-play potential.

Quinn, who played in nine games last year on special teams and as a reserve tight end, is getting some opportunities to show what he can do downfield during his spring.

"You can see a big difference in Quinn," Gutekunst said. "Even though he's just a freshman, this is his second spring and now you're starting to see strides. He has the most speed, so he's got a chance to be a difference maker in terms of going deep."

Rock Wells, a walk-on from Clinton, earned playing time in seven games as a sophomore in 2005.

"Rock Wells is used to winning," Gutekunst said. "When you look at his ‘measureables' out of Coach [Jeff] Connors' camp, he deserves to be right up there with the others."

The primary focus at tight end this spring is on Hamlett, Quinn and Wells; and those three will likely top the depth chart heading into the fall. Vince Jacobs, Ed Barham and Ryan Taylor headline a talented incoming freshman class as well, and will begin to join the fold when training camp rolls around.

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