It’s been less than two years since C.J. Conrad sat in UK’s meeting room for tight ends. Last time he was a student. This time he will be one of the teachers.
Conrad will be assisting Vince Marrow as an off the field graduate assistant in 2020. Today he gave us a little preview of what’s to come.
“I want to give our coaches insight on what these guys are thinking sometimes, being a guy that’s fresh out of the locker room and give them the kind of perspective from that point of view. And obviously doing as much as I can for these coaches when it comes to breaking down film, watching practice, giving my thoughts and opinions to them,” Conrad said. “From the player’s side of it, just being a guy who’s been there, done that and seen a lot of things. If they have any questions for me, they have my respect; I have theirs. It’s one of those things where I think we can have an honest conversation. There’s a comfortability there between me and the players.”
Nik Ognenovic is the only tight end Conrad did not play with at Kentucky. Even so, Conrad helped recruit Big Nik and hosted him on his official visit.
Conrad was not gone from UK for long, but learned a lot of time in the one year he was away.
“When you’re a guy who’s started for four years, by the time you’re a senior you kind of think you’ve seen everything. To go into a room where I have Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison — who have 15 years combined in the league — to learn from those guys and see things I’ve never seen before and kind of be a freshman again when it comes to that type of stuff, just learning. I thought I knew a lot but I didn’t.”
Ellison, in particular, provided a wealth of knowledge one can only gain as an eight-year NFL vet. During Conrad’s time at UK, when faced with an obstacle he tried to physically break through it by improving his strength and conditioning. Ellison taught him how to use techniques that allowed him to easily finesse the metaphorical barriers.
“I learned so much in the NFL about technique,” said Conrad. “He (Ellison) would still move people up the line of scrimmage because he was such a good blocker. He had such good technique. To watch those guys, they’re technicians out there, so I learned a lot from that point of view.”
This week was the first time coaches were able to observe the team in individual workouts. Conrad liked what he saw.
“I was really impressed with how they looked physically coming off the quarantine and how much they’ve done a good job staying in shape. They look ready to go and I’m excited for them. It’s been two years since I’ve played with them. I’m kind of impressed with Nik Ognenovic as well. He’s looking good, put on a lot of weight. That whole room — we’ve got four guys that can start day one and I’m very impressed with that.”
But the ultimate question for C.J. is one he was asked many times at Kentucky: Will the tight ends catch more passes in Eddie Gran’s offense this fall?
“What we’re trying to work at as an offensive staff is to work our run game off our pass game. We’ve been super successful the last six years of running the football and we’re doing our best to realize that we have some really big, powerful, strong tight ends that can make some plays in the passing game. Using those guys in run sets and playing some play-action off it — that’s some stuff that we’ve talked about in our meetings and hopefully we’re working on putting that together.”