By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says running back Chris Rodriguez had a 1-on-1 challenge on third down at the Tennessee one-yard line to get into the end zone to win the game that he just didn’t win.
“It was hard on Chris because normally we expect him to get that yard with a profile run, near leg and near shoulder, and run him over, get him sideways, but the way he saw it kind of late, he squared him up, made a good goal line tackle there,” Stoops said. “If Chris has a little better vision, he could get him a little bit more on his side and get that yard or jump. It just wasn’t clean. It’s not on Chris, they (Tennessee’s defense) made a nice play.”
Rodriguez has become the back UK seems to expect to get tough yardage like Benny Snell did the three previous years for Stoops.
“I think Chris is one of those guys that you see him getting those very tough yards. I think each of our backs have been very productive and given us a lot and given us explosive plays. I’m not jabbing at anybody, but early in the year it’s like, ‘Why aren’t you playing this guy,’ or ‘Why aren’t you playing that guy,’ it’s like every game it could be this back (or another),” Stoops said.
“All three of them have given us explosive plays and have looked very dynamic at times. They are all deserving of the reps they’re getting, they’ve all done some really good things.”
Stoops was vague on possibly changing the running back rotation — some fans have been clamoring for Rodriguez to get more carries than A.J. Rose — for Saturday’s must-win game at Vanderbilt.
“At this point, it’s probably more fans and the media make more of that than we do because during the game, you don’t know where those explosive runs are going to play. You have to realize, there are a lot of things that are RPOs (run-pass option) on that as well, where he’s handing it off,” Stoops said.
“There were times we had some throws in there as well. With RPOs, Lynn (Bowden) again, just looking at it, once he looks at it on film, I could have thrown this one, he had a few options there, to throw a little bit more.”
Stoops said it’s “fair” to note that some running backs do things better than others but called it “splitting hairs” to try to pick which one to play on certain situations.
“Maybe some guys are better at a gap scheme, maybe he’s reading things better, hitting it tighter, trusting it, than others. But in general you’re splitting hairs there,” Stoops said.