By LARRY VAUGHT
Senior C.J. Conrad is considered one of the nation’s top ends. Some NFL analysts even have him ranked as the nation’s top draft prospect at his position for the 2019 draft.
But get this. Kentucky tight ends coach Vince Marrow also thinks sophomore tight end Justin Rigg is a future NFL player.
“C.J. is really good and and Justin has a chance to be just as good,” said Marrow.
Marrow doesn’t think any team in the country has a better pair of tight ends than Conrad and Rigg even though Conrad had just three catches for nine yards against Central Michigan and Rigg did not have a catch. However, UK ran for 299 yards, including 100-yard games by both Benny Snell and A.J. Rose, in part because of the way the two tight ends block.
“I think those two guys are pretty good. You can do a lot of stuff with both of them,” Marrow said. “You can flex one out, put on on the nub side (by himself and three receivers on the other side of the field). Both are good blockers. I wouldn’t trade them for anybody else.
What will make Rigg a future NFL tight end?
“Justin is a great inline blocker No. 1, which they (NFL scouts) look for. Then he has soft hands for a big guy (6-6, 260). Look at a lot of tight ends in the NFL and he is that true guy they really like. (NFL) Guys looking at C.J. and say who is 83 (Rigg) . They think he is a junior but he had a redshirt year and they are stunned,” Marrow said.
“We will miss C.J. but these young guys will fill in very well because of C.J being in that role and he will make them pretty good.”
The “young guys” also include freshmen Keaton Upshaw and Brenden Bates. Coach Mark Stoops says both are “big guys who can run” and are “good line of scrimmage tight ends” because of their blocking ability but could also be used as fullback or wide receivers.
“The good part is we have four tight ends who can put their hand down and be physical and also stretch the field and give them a big target,” Stoops said.
Yates and Upshaw could both be redshirted, especially with coaches having the flexibility to use them in four games and still redshirt both if Conrad and Rigg each stays healthy.
“My first year here they (Upshaw and Bates) would have been starting because they are that talented. So right now, Bates or Upshaw would be next guys coming in if needed,” Marrow said. “I would play them right now. They have showed me a lot.
“It’s just that I have two NFL guys ahead of them, but that is what you are supposed to have at a SEC school. We didn’t have that before but we do now. They are learning from C.J. They are learning from Justin. One is 6-6, one is 6-5, both around 250. I am very excited for the next couple of years because those young guys are really, really good.”