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SEC 2015: Kentucky's Potential Impact Freshmen

Highlighting potential first-year stars on both sides of the ball for the Wildcats.

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky's offense appears to be in pretty good shape heading into the 2015 campaign. It all starts with the experienced offensive line. The youngest starters on the O-line figure to be redshirt sophomores Ramsey Meyers and Kyle Meadows. Junior signal caller Patrick Towles is battle tested and has some serious weapons, most notably wideout Ryan Timmons as well as running back Stanley "Boom" Williams.

Yet even with these returning players, it is a freshman tight end who could be the key to taking UK's offense to the next level this season. C.J. Conrad, a tight end out of LaGrange, Ohio, looks awfully promising. At 6'5"/225, he looks ready to compete right away from a physicality standpoint. Conrad has the opportunity to be an integral piece of the Cats' pass-happy offense in 2015. Tight ends in the Air Raid offense can be downright terrifying, something Texas Tech proved back in 2013 when Jace Amaro exploded for 1300+ yards and 7 touchdowns. Conrad could develop into a similar type of threat, especially in the TDs category. Last season, Ryan Timmons led the team with 45 receptions for 536 yards, but the 5'10" wide receiver is not exactly a monstrous red zone target (two TDs in 2014). Here is where Conrad can really shine. Defenses will have to account for him as a primary target in short yardage situations, especially around the goal line. Effective as a decoy. Effective as a pass-catcher. It is never too early to get excited about a prospect like Conrad.

Switching gears to the Wildcats' defense, four-star safety Marcus Walker joins an improving secondary led by A.J. Stamps and Blake McClain. However, the major question mark right now involves the front seven. How does a team go about replacing Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith?

Outside linebacker Eli Brown, who also played running back in high school, is certainly a potential star of the future on D.J. Eliot's defensive unit. Because of his smaller frame, Brown may not evolve into the same type of DE/OLB hybrid as Dupree, but he has the speed and athleticism to get from sideline to sideline. His high school game film suggests he will be explosive and a form tackler at the next level. In Brown, this defense is getting a young star who can get some invaluable minutes alongside standout inside backer Josh Forrest this season. Brown will also have the opportunity to learn from fellow OLB Jason Hatcher, who earned important minutes early in his career as a true freshman in 2013.

Conrad and Brown are just the tip of the iceberg as far as this talented recruiting class goes, but they could be immediate contributors and are certainly worth keeping an eye on as the season approaches.