By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow seems almost giddy when he comes off the field after spring practice. He’’s almost always jovial when he talks UK football, but he was even more enthused last week talking about what lies ahead for the Cats.
Here’s some of what Marrow, who also coaches tight ends/tackles, had to say about spring practice and more:
Question: How much fun is this time of year for you?
Marrow: “This is probably the most fun I will have because you are serious about developing kids but you get a break because it is not about wins and losses every week. You can develop guys and make sure they get better. I like that.”
Question: Does it surprise you that tight end C.J. Conrad was not happy to leave practice early because he’s been hurt and can only do rehab?
Marrow: “That’s typical. Some kids would be happy they can leave early. But that kid is a competitor. It is crushing him. You can tell he wants to be out there. He will be back 110 percent in June. Justin (Rigg) will be back (from injury) and then we have the young guys coming in this summer. It’s going to be a strong and talented group.”
Question: If Conrad stays healthy, how big a season could he have?
Marrow: “I say it and will say it again, he is one of the top five tight ends in the country and the NFL thinks the same thing just off the way they are ranking him right now. He could catch 40 or 50 balls. He’s catching 20 balls but what people are missing is how good he can block. He can go to the next level and whichever team drafts him, he can catch 30, 40 or 50 balls. He’s that good. When he is all the way healthy, I think he is the best in the SEC.”
Question: Should Conrad’s production go up just through his experience?
Marrow: “If we schemed for it to happen, he could catch 50 balls easy. He does so much. He is valuable in pass protection, the run game. If C.J. went to a school where they just threw the ball a lot, he would catch 60 balls (a year). He’s that good. What he does for us is very important. When we lost him after the Georgia game, it showed. He can do so many things and we scheme things in our offense for him.”
Question: How different is it now to rest guys in spring now versus your first spring practice here?
Marrow: “Nothing against nobody else, but when you can’t five find offensive linemen or receivers to put out there, it was crazy. I think back to that first year to now where we are three- or four-deep at some positions. That’s what you have to be in the SEC to win.”
Question: How big is it to concentrate more on developing young players than having to look for starters at every position?
Marrow: “That’s the key and where are now in this offense. In the NFL, they call them OTAs (organized training activities). The veterans sit out in the preseason and the young guys develop. That is what this is for us. We want to go into fall camp with more players. I think the guys who are really benefit are guys like Josh Allen, Denzil Ware. They love it. Instead of taking 30 reps, they take 10 reps and let the young guys do it. That’s where we are now with this roster. We worked to get here and have some depth.”
Question: Is there a lot more to see from receiver Lynn Bowden?
Marrow: “He’s the guy now. He is not alternating with anybody. He was behind a good player last year in Garrett Johnson, a veteran guy. But he can make spectacular catches. Big Blue Nation is going to see a lot. Lynn never lifted weights in high school. He probably never ate right. He is almost 200 pounds now and is muscular. He is going to be dangerous. He is strong, explosive. He looks tougher. Last year it was just ability. Now he is doing all the right things. He’s that good.”
Question: Can he be that go-to guy even when everybody knows the ball is coming his way?
Marrow: “He is going to get the ball some kind of way. I think he will be a better kick returner. He could be a great punt returner. The key is he has experience now along with that ability he already had. It’s going to be exciting to see. It really is.”
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