Last week, Mark Stoops put a hitch in the BBN’s giddy-up by starting the long summer with a couple a crazy Yahtzees! for the 2015 class. After building a foundation of offensive linemen (cough Damien Harris cough), Stoops reeled in three big-time ‘skill’ players in seven days – tight end C.J. Conrad, wide receiver Alex Stump, and linebacker Jordan Jones. All three are filling positions of need, all three are highly sought after from the state of Ohio, all three will be 4-stars by the time they step on campus.
There’s no doubt that each player will make serious moves for Mark Stoops, but which one is going to make the biggest impact when they arrive to Lexington?
Alex Stump isn’t like many wideouts on the Kentucky roster. Standing at 6’5, Blake Bone will be his only competition in the height department when he arrives on campus. Stump has great speed too, running a Nike Sparq certified 4.54 40-yard dash. Most big guys are limited to the role of “throw it deep and I’ll go up and catch it,” but Stump operates well in traffic down the middle of the field. If you want to find a knock on him, it might be a lack of acceleration that could get him caught from behind by some SEC defensive backs. Stump has intangibles too; he plays on the field like the genius he is off the field.
It’s fun to watch him do work, but I can’t give him the #1 spot because I don’t know how much he can play as a freshman. UK will actually have a lot of WRs by then with significant experience by 2015. Stump will be a valuable asset, but he’ll be a wildcard off the bench to start his career.
Jordan Jones is one fast, run-stopping linebacker. He hits holes before running backs even see them. He doesn’t waste his time by taking steps back (a common flaw for new guys at the position when trying to make the right read), he just squares up and hits you in the mouth. Did I mention he’s fast? Like 4.47 fast.
Jones is going to be a fantastic linebacker for Mark Stoops. He’s so good against the run, if he was on the roster this Fall he’d probably be good enough to fill Avery’s shoes in the middle. However linebacker might be the hardest position to learn in football. They’re the QBs of the defense that on any given play could have up to a dozen possible alignments, depending on the look given by the offense. I love watching Jones play, but I know Stoops isn’t going to throw a guy to the dogs before he’s mastered the position.
Tight end C.J. Conrad has all of the goods to make an immediate impact on the field in 2015. Conrad looks like your traditional tight end with name like “Kowalzchizinskiowski” but he plays like a spread wide receiver. In fact, for his high school he plays split out as a receiver more times than not. He’s been compared to Neal Brown’s old tight from Texas Tech, Jace Amaro, who flourished in his Air Raid system before being selected as the 49th overall pick of this year’s NFL draft.
Conrad will have a sophomore version of Darryl Long to beat out for playing time, but in all likelihood they’ll both be on the field a ton. Brown’s offense at UK hasn’t seen too much from the tight ends so far, but there might not be a more important position to keep the defense on their toes once the Air Raid gets to rollin’.