Kentucky may have lost a star in CJ Conrad, but the former Cat’s presence on the team created a bit of a legacy, especially at his own position. Justin Rigg, a 6-foot-6 tight end from Springboro, Ohio, looks to step into Conrad’s spotlight.
During Friday’s spring game, Rigg served as the team’s fourth-highest receiver, finishing with three catches for 40 yards, including a tricky 24-yard catch that was good for a Blue Team touchdown.
Give @justinrigg83 SIX.
? 21 – 0 ?? pic.twitter.com/N1fLPAS8JU
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) April 12, 2019
His return to football has been a long time coming, thanks to a combination of Conrad’s success last season and a series of freak injuries. Rigg has suffered from not one, but two internal organ lacerations – his spleen and, in a separate incident, his kidney.
Now, his clean bill of health and upperclassman experience means he should see a substantial jump in playing time this year. He appeared in 11 games last season, starting against Middle Tennessee State and Louisville, but his role with be vastly different without Conrad in the locker room. Regardless, he’ll have Conrad’s support.
Let’s goooooo!!!! Love that play https://t.co/0nhxLzsUGx
— CJ Conrad (@cjconrad1) April 12, 2019
The weight of the position will not rest solely on Rigg’s shoulders. He’ll be joined by two other main tight ends: Brenden Bates, a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman from Cincinnati and Keaton Upshaw, 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman out of Lima, Ohio.
Coach Eddie Gran has already spoken highly of Upshaw throughout the spring season. The redshirt freshman suffered a season-ending knee injury last September, but he’s impressed Coach Gran so far this year.
“Keaton kind of showed up a bit,” Gran said after one of the team’s recent scrimmages. “When he had his opportunities, he made them count.”
Unfortunatley, Upshaw did not participate in this year’s Blue/White Spring Game due to a lingering hamstring injury. He’s expected to make a full recovery soon and be ready in plenty of time for the fall. While Rigg will likely serve as the team’s starting TE, having a strong supporting cast (especially made up of three physically-large guys) will definitely help fill the void Conrad’s graduation left behind.
It may take three to replace one, but when that “one” earned over 1,000 career receiving yards, that’s quite alright.