Today, CJ Conrad decided to make it official and commit to head coach Mark Stoops, position coach and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, and the University of Kentucky. The 6'5'' Conrad is considered a four star tight end by most services, and he chose Kentucky over the University of Indiana. IU has installed a pass happy offense that saw its tight end catch 35 balls last season and so posed a threat to land Conrad's services. More offers were probably inevitable if he'd play out the process longer.
Conrad reportedly has bulked up and put on good weight in the off-season, and his recent camp performances indicate it hasn't hurt his speed or lateral quickness. 24/7 currently ranks him as the 9th best tight end in the country. Rivals rates him as the sixth best tight end, and the 8th best player in Ohio. He apparently is a "role model" in his hometown too. You are now free to swoon.
Here's the pic:
Here's the newest UK football commitment RT @BillBankGreene CJ Conrad has made his choice. #BBN pic.twitter.com/ErWwzw4U1U— Ben Roberts (@NextCats) May 9, 2014
Kentucky currently has three tight ends on the roster with two set to graduate after the season so tight ends are likely a position of emphasis in this class. Conrad will have a chance for very early playing time when he reports to campus. UK only signed one tight end in the last recruiting cycle, so will probably look to add one more for 2015. The Wildcats have not had a dynamic player at the position since first-team All SEC Jacob Tamme's last season in 2007.
The Air Raid doesn't automatically feature the tight end position even though its tight ends are typically lined up with the receivers, and not off the shoulder of an offensive tackle. Hal Mumme's iteration did emphasize the position with Derek Smith and first team All-American James Whalen in the late 90's. Mike Leach's version largely eschewed tight ends at Texas Tech. Neal Brown didn't utilize his tight ends at Troy or Texas Tech for the most part, according to CFBStats. However, in Brown's last season at Texas Tech he had one of the best tight ends in the country, Jace Amaro, who was third in receiving for Texas Tech in 2012 (and was a monster last season who will be drafted sometime today). This suggests Brown may adapt his offense to its personnel strengths, and be more agnostic when it comes to emphasizing specific positions.
Essentially, Conrad can be as good as he wants to be at UK. He'll be expected to take advantage of speed mismatches against linebackers, and size mismatches against smaller defensive backs. He'll have the opportunity to catch lots of passes if he proves capable. Blocking will play a role but not a definitive one like it would have at a more run heavy program. Most of the blocking he will do will be in open space, sometimes against quicker defensive backs, and require emphasis in blocking fundamentals. After a few years in UK's S&C program he will have added weight, at which point UK hopes to have developed him into a great "traditional" in-line blocker as well as well.
These are Conrad's promising sophomore year highlights:
For those scoring at home, this makes the ninth commitment UK has received for the 2015 signing class. More fun numbers:
- Conrad is the third Rivals Top 250 commitment this class, and makes the 10th overall in the Stoops Era. It's early, so there is a chance there will be even more (i.e. Damien Harris and George Brown Jr) this cycle. The Joker and Brooks eras had...less.
- Conrad is the fourth commitment from Ohio in 2015, and the 17th overall in less than three recruiting cycles. That represents 29% of all recruits Stoops has previously signed, or received commitments from for 2015.
- Conrad's commitment currently pushes UK into a borderline consensus Top 20 signing class for 2015 among the services. A Top 10-20 finish is realistic for the second year in a row. UK had never finished in the Top 20 since the advent of the recruiting services approximately a decade ago prior to last season. Still, it's a very long way to NSD 2015.
It remains astonishing how much things have changed in two years. Astonishing.