UK football recruit of the week: C.J. Conrad

broberts@herald-leader.comJune 9, 2014 

C.J. Conrad

The stellar play of Kentucky football commitment C.J. Conrad over the past few weeks has made it hard to avoid the whispers.

The four-star tight end in the class of 2015 was already viewed as a probable addition to the Cats when he was named the top receiver at a Rivals camp in late April.

A couple of weeks later, the Ohio native confirmed those predictions with his public commitment to Kentucky.

On the first weekend of June, Conrad won the top pass-catching honor at a high-profile Nike camp. The performance earned him an invitation to The Opening showcase in Oregon next month, which is Nike's biggest event of the summer.

It also brought back the rumors.

Conrad chose UK over scholarship offers from more than a dozen schools, but that list didn't include Ohio State and several other Big Ten programs that were continuing to monitor his recruitment.

While UK fans following Conrad's success surely felt pride in those performances, there was also trepidation. Whenever a high-profile player commits to a school so early in the process, the fear of a flip lingers.

Conrad heard the rumblings and was starting to get the questions. So, after earning his invitation to The Opening, he tweeted that he was "100 percent committed" to the Cats.

"I just wanted to make sure people knew," Conrad told the Herald-Leader. "I've gotten a lot of questions about that since my success in the recent camps. People thinking I may decommit or something if Ohio State jumps in. No. I'm 100 percent committed to Kentucky. That's why I made my decision for Kentucky, because that's where I fit best."

Conrad said UK's coaches aren't concerned. He speaks to Coach Mark Stoops, offensive coordinator Neal Brown and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow every week.

His message was for the fans. "I just want to make sure BBN knows what's up," he said.

Conrad is clearly looking forward to being a Wildcat.

When asked what he hoped to accomplish next month at The Opening, his answer came quickly. "First of all, I'm going to recruit," Conrad said.

He mentioned discussing UK with four-star defensive end Darius Fullwood — one of the Cats' top targets — at the Nike camp earlier this month. Fullwood is set to announce his decision June 28.

Conrad's plans for this past weekend included a trip to Lexington for one of UK's spring camps. He said he'd probably be doing more recruiting than anything during that visit.

Last year, it was quarterback Drew Barker who took on the position of recruit-turned-recruiter. Conrad is embracing that role this time around.

"I've always kind of taken the role of the leader," he said. "Now that I'm committed, I want to be a recruiter myself. I want this 2015 class to turn out even better than the 2014 class. And it's going to take more than just the coaches. It's going to take some players to do it too."

Conrad — a 6-foot-5 prospect — has added 15 pounds to his now-230-pound frame since February and continues to work on his play at the tight end position. He was primarily a wide receiver until his junior season but has already shown blocking skills that are good enough to compete at the college level.

The Cats will need him immediately.

Conrad pointed out that — unless UK adds another tight end to this class — he and incoming freshman Darryl Long will be the only scholarship players at that position in 2015.

"To play as a freshman in the SEC, it doesn't get much better than that," Conrad said.

He's decided to get off to an early start by skipping his final semester of high school and enrolling at UK in December. That will allow him to go through spring practice with his teammates and learn the offense in hopes of earning a prominent role as a freshman.

Barker was one of seven early enrollees from the class of 2014, and Conrad said he's already spoken to his future quarterback about what to expect.

"He says it's the best decision he's ever made. So I'm excited."

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

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