The stat line for UK football commitment Brenden Bates on Friday night didn’t exactly match up with his star ranking.
Bates — a 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end — had just two catches (on just three targets) for 35 yards, despite playing the majority of the offensive snaps in Cincinnati Moeller’s 38-28 victory over Scott County.
Rivals.com ranks Bates as one of the top 10 tight ends in the country, and he’s one of only two UK commitments for the class of 2018 on that website’s “Rivals 250” list of the nation’s top prospects. Such a designation brings with it visions of 100-yard games with multiple trips to the end zone.
Bates is capable of that, to be sure, but that’s not all he can do.
Many highly touted pass-catchers would likely be frustrated by getting only three targets in such a high-profile game. Bates was all smiles after this one.
“A lot of tight ends nowadays aren’t really good blocking tight ends,” he said. “I think I bring a good blocking aspect to the table, and I can also catch and make plays.
“I take pride in blocking. I just love moving people against their will. And when they throw to me, I like to make plays and make things happen. So, I’m pumped. … I’ll do whatever I can to win games.”
Bates’ willingness to block was on full display in Moeller’s victory over Scott County.
He sought out contact on the line and in the open field, fought back against defenders through the whistle and often lined up in the H-back spot to get a little extra push for the Crusaders’ running game.
While it’s normal for younger football players — especially those as athletic as Bates — to fixate on highlight-reel plays, the future Wildcat said his early backyard sessions dealt as much with contact as circus catches.
Bates’ older brother, Doug, a former tight end at Moeller High School and now a redshirt freshman on Cincinnati’s football team, also took pride in his blocking. Call it a family tradition.
“He’s actually the one who taught me how to block,” Brenden said of his older brother. “He always says to me, ‘Everyone can catch, but not everyone can block.’ He has this funny line all the time: ‘It’s fun to move people against their will.’
“We’d just go in the backyard, have some fun, and he taught me a lot.”
Doug Bates has since been moved to offensive guard for the Bearcats, the same team his father played for in college. That’s a highly unlikely future move for Brenden, who projects as a dangerous pass-catcher at the college level.
“He’s a guy who can create separation with his speed and quickness, and that’s obviously the big thing at tight end — the ability to create separation,” said Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt. “You have a guy who has great size, and then he can create mismatches with his athleticism. That’s what Bates provides.”
Bates also showed that ability Friday night.
On one play in the second half, he caught a pass near the sideline that looked destined for only a short gain. Appearing to have nowhere to go but out of bounds, Bates juked a Scott County defender, ran around him and picked up another 10 or 15 yards, carrying another defender on his back for the last few steps.
Early in his high school career, it was assumed that Bates would follow in his father and older brother’s footsteps and become a Bearcat.
His mother, Kelly, is a UK alum, however, and she told Brenden he should go to a Kentucky football camp and see how it felt.
“OK, Mom, I’ll try it out,” Brenden replied.
Ultimately, it was UK — not Cincinnati — that offered Bates his first college scholarship. He was drawn to the campus, the coaching staff — “I love Coach (Vince) Marrow,” he said Friday night — and the direction of the Wildcats’ program. (Fun fact: His grandfather, Gene Neff, played basketball at UK in the 1950s).
Other college programs are still keeping in touch with Bates, but he said UK fans have nothing to worry about there. He can’t wait to be a Wildcat.
“Once I committed to Kentucky, that’s my school,” he said. “I’m 110 percent committed to Kentucky. I’m not going anywhere.
“I’m hearing from other schools. But I just tell ’em that I’m going to Kentucky.”