By LARRY VAUGHT
Not having all-time leading rusher Benny Snell in the backfield certainly changes the Kentucky offense. Some seem to believe that a group of running backs led by junior A.J. Rose can do as much — or even more — than Snell did when he had three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
However, coach Mark Stoops recently noted that Snell’s presence had some intangible impact on the Kentucky offense as well.
“I think most important would be his mentality, how competitive Benny was, and intelligent. There’s times when a running back needs to rely on his God-given ability and his instincts, make cuts, do things that are between he and God,” Stoops said.
“There’s other times where he has to understand exactly what’s going on, what the situation of the game is, how to get those tough yards, where the holes are going to be, understand that a two- or a three-yard run in certain cases are every bit as big as ripping a long one off.”
Snell’s knack for making the right play at the right time is hard to estimate now that he’s gone.
“I think that intelligence helped us win a lot of games in four-minute offense, Stoops said. “It’s so important when everybody in the stadium knows he’s getting the ball and he still gets first downs. Those are big.
“Again, that credit goes to the offensive line, coach Schlarman, getting a hat on a hat, backing everybody up. It’s critically important depending on the situation of the game. That’s where football IQ is so important on both sides, understanding four-minute defense, two-minute defense, four-minute offense, two-minute, so on.
“You know what I’m saying. That intelligence and football IQ is critically important to winning games. We’re in a lot of close games, you all know that. We all have to be intelligent and clued into that.
“Benny Snell, everybody knows what Benny did for us. But he also set the tone for these backs. They had an opportunity to sit there and watch him. What’s most impressive about Benny was his mentality, how tough he was, determined he was to help his team win. These guys had an opportunity to see that. They have a lot of talent. I’m excited. I feel like there’s a lot to build on there.”
But no Benny Snell and only games will tell how much impact that’s going to have on UK this year.