Benny And The Rest: Spring Running Back Preview

Benny And The Rest: Spring Running Back Preview

Freddie Maggardover 3 years


Aritcle written by:Freddie MaggardFreddie Maggard
The easy spring practice write and fan fascination will justifiably surround Kentucky’s quarterback competition. However, adjacent offensive positions significantly impact the QB race as well as the offense in its entirety. Today we’ll focus on the running backs. Benny Snell is now the standard in which Kentucky running backs will be measured. The rising junior has blazed a path through the UK record books. But, is Benny enough? You be the judge. The second half of the Music City Bowl mirrored similar moments throughout last season when the star was sidelined. The Snell-less backfield ignited a genuine sense of concern in Nashville. The Cats mustered very little running back production after Snell was prematurely dispatched to the locker room. To make matters worse, unexpected attrition reared it's ugly head again in the offseason with the transfer of Bryant Koback, who had been spoken of with high regards prior to announcing his early departure from the program. Let’s take a look at a comparison between 2016 and 2017:

2017 Running Back Production





Benny Snell




Sihiem King




AJ Rose








2016 Running Back Production





Boom Williams




Benny Snell




JoJo Kemp




Sihiem King








-- Benny Snell accounted for 77% of all RB rushing yards and 90.4% of the position’s touchdowns in 2017.

-- Kentucky finished 2016 ranked 3rd in the SEC by averaging 234.15 yards-per-game.

-- UK averaged 30 points-per-game in 2016. That declined to 25 in 2017.

-- 2017 saw the Cats finish 8th in the league after averaging 161.69 rush-yards per contest.

Unexpected attrition took its toll on the Kentucky offense.  Boom Williams’ questionable decision to enter the NFL Draft limited the Cats attack much like Jeff Badet’s departure to Oklahoma. So did losing tackle Cole Mosier and Dorian Baker to preseason injuries as well as not having guard Nick Haynes at 100%.

The result; Kentucky rushed for 859 fewer yards in 2017 than it did in 2016. The position also produced 6 less touchdowns. This comparison is also somewhat unfair due to the number of RB participants, a steady offensive line, a deep threat passing game led by a healthy quarterback. But, the above numbers paint a picture of a team that is desperate need of finding quality depth at the running back position. This is common for most teams that possesses a star at the position.

I’d feel safe writing that Benny Snell will be UK’s starting running back. Neither rookie is on campus and will not factor in the spring competition. But again the question remains; who’s next? Which RB will provide quality carries in order to lessen the load for the All American candidate? Will Benny Snell be full-go during spring practice or will he be sidelined for precautionary reasons? I’m on record saying that I’d bubble wrap the Doak Walker hopeful until late in fall camp. That’s a wish but not practical due to familiarization necessities with the new starting quarterback and offensive line.

Benny Snell

-- 2017 Associated Press 1st Team All SEC

-- 2017 SEC regular season rushing leader.

-- Two-year totals: 29 touchdowns, 448 carries, 2424-yards.

-- Holds school records for points in a season (110), TD’s in a season (19), rushing TD’s in a season (19), rush TD’s in a career (32).

-- First player in school history to have 10, 100-yards games prior to their senior season.

-- 3rd player in SEC history to have at least 2409-yards and 31 career rushing touchdowns prior to his junior season. Snell joins Herschel Walker and Leonard Fournette in this category.

-- Only player in SEC since 2000 to have at least 116-yards and 3-touchdowns in three consecutive games.

-- This could go on for a while. For brevity sakes; I’ll shorten Snell’s accomplishments. This should paint the picture of his importance to the Kentucky Football program.

Sihiem King

-- 2017 totals: 79 carries, 364-yards, 2 TD’s. 

-- 15 carries, 69-yards, 2 touchdowns in career high game vs. Vanderbilt.

-- 5 carries, 64-yards vs. Florida.

AJ Rose

-- 2017 totals: 15 carries, 37-yards.

-- Limited in fall camp due to ankle injury.

-- Career high 9 carries, 26-yards vs. Mississippi State.

-- Redshirted in 2016.


What does all this mean?

I hope these articles help in explaining how different positions impact the others. Lower production from the WR’s allowed opposing defenses to condense (load the box) in order to stop the run. That strategy worked and is another factor that led to a decrease from the running back position and scoring totals.

Kentucky quarterbacks threw just 10 touchdown passes in 2017 which was a drop of 7 from the prior season. Some of that decline lies on the shoulders of an offensive line that struggled to find its identity until later in the season as well as the WR’s/QB’s not being able to connect on the homerun ball. Offense is an eleven-man operation; it all ties together.

Now back to the running backs.

Plain and simple Benny Snell is a star. However, the team will need Sihiem King and AJ Rose to provide quality carries and perfect the blitz pickup during spring practice. Snell’s future must be taken into consideration in the big picture. Fewer hits from quality reps provided by backups would be the optimal spring result.

Sihiem King is a shifty yet undersized runner that has shown flashes. The rising senior is who we’ve seen for the past three seasons. In other words, I’d expect more of the same from the Georgia native and that’s a pretty darn good change of pace RB by the way. King can also increase his role during passing downs and on special teams.

AJ Rose was a high school quarterback. His learning curve for the position has been steep and was dampened by an ankle injury during fall camp. Rose has a tremendous upside but needs to become more consistent in basic fundamentals that are obligatory for the position. Another spring practice may lead to a discovery of a quality SEC RB. His development is incredibly important for Eddie Gran’s offense. Gran is a proven RB teacher with several pupils having played on Sundays.

Rose’s talent has never been in question. I can’t emphasize enough how important spring practice is for the sophomore. With two promising rookies arriving in June; his time is now.

Back to surrounding positions. Kentucky returns 4/5 offensive line starters and an All SEC TE. Experience can be the best teacher in the facility. Somehow, someway Eddie Gran has to design more non-Snell rushing threats. That could come in the form of a backup RB, the multitalented Lynn Bowden, or the quarterback position. In simpler terms; the Wildcat’s need to expand its rushing attack. Benny needs some help.

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