Kentucky lands commitment from one of nation's top tight ends

broberts@herald-leader.comMay 9, 2014 

C.J. Conrad

The latest commitment for the Kentucky football program could prove to be a dream come true for the Wildcats' young quarterbacks of the future.

Ohio tight end C.J. Conrad committed to UK on Friday, picking the Cats over fellow finalist Indiana and a host of other programs that had extended early scholarship offers. ranks Conrad as the No. 6 tight end in the country, making him the highest-rated player at that position to pick UK since Rivals started publishing rankings in 2002.

Recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said Conrad has a "real presence" over the middle of the field and is the type of player that quarterbacks love to target.

"He's just so solid," he said. "He's got a great pair of hands. He's able to get position in those short and intermediate passing routes — find a space, get himself open. And he's a good athlete too."

The Rivals analyst last scouted Conrad at his company's camp in Detroit a couple of weeks ago. The UK commitment won the top pass-catcher award — "And that's tough for a tight end to do," Helmholdt said — and was named the No. 3 offensive player at an event that featured some of the best prospects in the country.

Rivals already ranked him as a four-star player and the No. 174 overall recruit in the class of 2015. Only four UK commitments have been ranked higher during this current run of recruiting success under Coach Mark Stoops.

In addition to being an excellent pass catcher, Conrad also has the tools to be an effective pass protector.

Helmholdt said Conrad measured 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds at the camp in Detroit. He said he has the skill set to make an immediate impact at UK at that weight, but his optimal playing size would be around 260 pounds.

"At that size, he'll have no problem being an in-line blocker," Helmholdt said. "So he's an asset in the passing game and he'll also be an asset as a blocker. He just does everything you need from that tight end position."

Louisville, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and Duke were among the other schools that had offered Conrad, who has also received substantial interest from several Big Ten powers.

The Cleveland-area prospect took several official visits to nearby Ohio State, and he was supposed to participate in camps there and with other top programs over the summer.

Instead, he committed to Kentucky, one of the first schools to make him a priority.

"A lot of teams expected to see him out at camps," Helmholdt said. "Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame expected to see him and planned to look at him closely for an offer. But he went with the school that was with him early on."

Tight ends coach Vince Marrow was his primary recruiter.

Conrad is UK's ninth commitment for the class of 2015 and the third from Ohio in less than a week. He followed three-star wide receiver Alex Stump, who committed last Saturday, and three-star linebacker Jordan Jones, who announced his commitment Thursday morning.

Pass-catchers and linebackers are two of UK's biggest recruiting priorities in the 2015 cycle. The Cats are off to a good start with nearly nine months left until signing day.

"They're just filling up across the board," Helmholdt said. "They're doing a great job of filling all their needs. They're filling their roster with elite talent, and that's what you need to do to compete in the SEC."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog:

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