By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s chances of beating Penn State in the Citrus Bowl and winning a 10th game this year — something Kentucky has not done since 1977 — certainly are better with linebacker Josh Allen and running back Benny Snell, both All-Americans, playing in the game.
Both players have said they will play even though Allen is a likely top 10 pick in the 2019 NFL draft and Snell has opted to bypass his senior year at UK to enter the draft. However, coach Mark Stoops said he did not try to influence the players on whether to play or not play.
“I really felt the need to stay out of that. Again, I wanted it to be their decision and come from them,” Stoops said. “The only thing I said, I told Josh — because I knew he had some preliminary talks and we had a few more but we were running around doing all of the award ceremony and he was getting busy — and he said when we get back, let’s sit down and talk about it.
“When we got into those discussions, I said, ‘I want you to know that we respect you. Your legacy is set here. Do what’s right for you.’ I didn’t want him to feel that pressure from me. We did a lot. He accomplished a lot and what he did for us this year coming back, he did good for himself, he did good for our program, and so I just let that up to him.”
Snell needs 107 yards in the bowl game to become UK’s all-time leading rusher and surpass Sonny Collins’ record set over 40 years ago. However, Stoops did not promise Snell extra carries if he played and says the playcalling will not change in Orlando.
“If we were focused on that, we’d have given him a few more carries in the last game (against Louisville) and try to get him a few more yards, but that wouldn’t be very wise either,” Stoops said. “That’s where you do feel bad if he goes in there and gets hurt or (does) something silly.
“It’s important to him. It will be a very difficult challenge against who we’re playing, but we’re not going to focus on it now. Would I like to see it happen? Sure. He’s done a lot for us.”