National signing day: UK rebounds with strong 2015 class

By Joshua Huff

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UK football breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday as it concluded the national signing day with a 2015 recruiting class that adds size, length and speed to a team that struggled down the stretch last season.

In addition to the jewels of the class, tight end C.J. Conrad and offensive lineman George Asafo-Adjei, UK head coach Mark Stoops and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow mined the all-important Ohio region along with Washington D.C. and Florida to add size to an undersized wide receiver and defensive back position.

“I think getting 13 defensive guys was important,” Stoops said. “We just continue to build depth to get the size we’re looking for, and to get the players in the secondary was important.”

The commitments of 6-foot-2 defensive backs Derrick Baity and 6-foot-4 Chris Westry add length to a defensive backfield that faltered in the latter half of the 2014 season despite having 12 of the team’s 15 interceptions.

The ability of the new players allows for UK to move around in the backfield without worrying about mismatches.

“They’re very versatile,” Stoops said. “We want players that can play anywhere in the secondary.”

With the focus on building an SEC caliber defense, Stoops has slowly turned his team into a contender in the conference.

“We’re getting there,” Marrow said about turning the club into an SEC caliber team. “We’re starting to get players that look like SEC players.”

One of those players is 6-foot-5, 231-pound Conrad, a product of LaGrange, Ohio. He enters UK as a four-star prospect after catching 55 passes for 752 yards and 10 touchdowns at Keystone High School in 2014. Conrad will fill the absence of Steve Borden who caught just four passes last season. Conrad will play along-side redshirt-freshman Darryl Long, who according to Marrow has bulked up to 245 pounds and has impressed coaches.

New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson expects Conrad to have an immediate impact but will need to be more physical. Especially in a new offensive system that will utilize the tight end positon more than past UK teams.

As the confidence in the tight end position grows, the expectations for the receiving core have risen to new levels this offseason as the additions of 6-foot-6 Therrell Gosier, 6-foot-3 Jabari Greenwood and 6-foot-3 Will Jackson add unprecedented size to a position that has seen little size at the position the past few years. Along with 6-foot-5 Blake Bone and 6-foot-3 Dorian Backer, UK quarterback Patrick Towles will have plenty of opportunities to spread the field and throw it deep.

“Another group you see great length and great size in is the wide receiver position,” Stoops said. “Two guys in the 6-foot-3 range and one guy in the 6-foot-6 range. Once again we’re starting to build a quality group of receivers.”

The unspoken heroes of the offense, the offensive line, also benefited from upgrades in the 2015 class. Stoops and Co. added four new linemen who bring quality depth to a position that struggled last season in SEC play.

“Offensively, four offensive linemen, is always important to continue to build quality depth and get solid class after solid class with offensive lineman.”

The addition of size on the line was the focus this offseason.

The addition of 6-foot-4, 310-pound Asafo-Adjei, who enrolled early to get a jump at playing next season, will bolster an offensive line that lost Darrian Miller to graduation.

“He looks as good, if not better, than anybody we have on our team, and he’s only been here for two weeks,” Stoops said.

“I thought highly of Asafo-Adjei,” Dawson added. “He was one of the guys that stuck out and he has a bright future.”

Despite late decommitments, UK has rebounded with a solid 2015 class that ranks 35th in the nation according to However, UK is ranked 12th out of 14 in the SEC, ahead of only Florida and Vanderbilt.

But optimism still rises above the madness that is signing day.

“The first year we sold hope,” Marrow said. “The second year was more about getting need. Now we need to start winning.”