Conrad Ready to Investigate Penn State

Keystone High Class of 2015 tight end is visiting the Keystone State again after making a camp stop at University Park in June.

LaGrange, Ohio, is a lot like the small towns spread out across Pennsylvania. Main Street runs right through the heart of town, and the road leading up to Keystone High is dubbed Opportunity Way. It also has a player destined for the highest level of college football, and he's hearing from Penn State.

C.J. Conrad played receiver for all of his sophomore year, but he and his father didn't feel his speed matched what was needed to play at the FBS level. So he moved to tight end, added 35 pounds, hit the camp circuit, and found success at a stunning rate. A player whose name no one knew at the start of June can suddenly count six verbal scholarship offers and interest from a host of other programs.

Not bad for the Class of 2015 prospect, a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder who will visit Penn State for its Homecoming clash with Michigan Saturday.

"My dad and I sat down, and decided that there was no way I'd play Division I college football if I was a wide receiver, so I put a lot of weight on, went to camps, and my coach moved me to tight end," Conrad said. "It's the position I'm being recruited at now, and now that I'm getting reps at that position I'll hopefully be getting them at in college. I'm enjoying it.

"I can imagine the recruiting process might get stressful, but right now, I'm having a good time."

Keystone is off to a 4-2 start, fueled by a three game winning streak that was extended with a 47-0 victory over Firelands (Oberlin, Ohio) last Friday. It was a micro example to the macro picture that his position switch brought about: it's no secret that run blocking as a receiver is a bit different, and less involved, than it is at tight end.

"It's taken a while to get used to blocking," Conrad said. "The first couple of scrimmages, it was up and down. But once we've gotten to the games, I've gotten better game by game, and more comfortable. It's not as easy as I thought it was going to be to get it down."

His blocking had to improve in part thanks to what he learned on an estimated 10 camp stops during the summer. He recalled sitting in a film room inside Penn State's Lasch Building, listening to PSU tight ends coach John Strollo dissecting and explaining what his tight ends do on the field in head coach Bill O'Brien's offense during an Advanced Skill Camp in June. Campers worked on the same drills and techniques later that same day.

"He put us through and taught us a lot about blocking. They use the tight ends quite a bit at Penn State, and he showed us film from [2012] to explain how they use them," Conrad said. "When we did live drills, we did what their tight ends would do in practice, and we did what their tight ends would do in a game."

Penn State safeties coach Anthony Midget is the recruiting contact for Conrad, who reports they speak weekly to discuss both his and the Lions' most recent game, school and family life, and just about anything in between. The care the first-year Lions' assistant shows is what Conrad likes most, as Midget opts to focus on the little things rather than inquiring when he'll be coming to town.

Conrad will make the four-hour drive to University Park Saturday morning, already yearning to experience a sold-out Beaver Stadium crowd. A white-out has been called for the 5 p.m. kick, something he's seen on TV but wants to experience in-person.

Bowling Green, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Toledo and, most recently, Pittsburgh, have extended verbal scholarship offers. The tight end said he is trying to hit as many schools as he can, though fully knowing he can't hit them all.

That's the hardest part of the recruiting process, he said. Each week, there is undoubtedly a long list of coaches asking him and his family to visit their stadium. One particular factor is helping him map his schedule.

"The games I'm going to, the big reason is I can tell the school is interested in me. I talk to Coach Midget every week, and I can tell he's always been really interested in me," Conrad said. "He came by the school once or twice, and since day one, I've always thought Penn State has been very interested.

"I had a pretty good camp, and this weekend is a good time to come down. I'm excited."

Whether Conrad will be the first tight end to receive a Penn State scholarship offer is a question that may be answered Saturday. Or maybe not. Either way, he's looking forward to seeing O'Brien's offense in action, especially those tight ends.

After all, it's one of the key ingredients that will help him pick a school, along with fitting into the program, the atmosphere and coaching staff.

"I'm excited that Penn State is recruiting me," Conrad said. "They are a great program. It has always been known as one of the great programs, and they use the tight ends a lot in that offense. I've seen it on TV, and the atmosphere they play in is ridiculous."


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