By LARRY VAUGHT
Who will be Kentucky’s breakout running back star during the 2020 season?
Numbers certainly indicate that. Benny Snell rushed for 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2017 when he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and then as a junior ran for 1,449 yards and 16 more touchdowns in 2018. He broke or tied 14 school rushing record, including most yards (3,873), total touchdowns (48) and rushing touchdowns in a season (17). He broke the career rushing mark set by Sonny Collins in 1975.
Lynn Bowden had to move to quarterback from receiver midway of the 2019 season and set a UK record for most rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,369 in eight games, including 233 in the Belk Bowl win over Virginia Tech. He finished his career with 1,530 rushing yards and 1,303 receiving yards. He also became the just 10th player in school history to reach 4,000 all-purpose yards as he had 4,660.
Senior center Drake Jackson is one of four returning starters in the Kentucky offensive line known as the Big Blue Wall and most expect him along with senior tackle Landon Young and junior tackle Darian Kinnard to be chosen in the 2021 NFL draft.
So why not find out who Jackson thinks might be the next running star for Kentucky after blocking for both Snell and Bowden?
“It has been cool for the whole team. We have success as a team and with that comes guys like Benny, Josh (Allen) and Lynn. You don’t have success without good player in a team sport in the SEC,” Jackson, who played at Woodford County High School, said.
“When I came into UK I really did not think it would happen the way it has. I thought we would be throwing the ball a little bit more. But you do what you have to do to win. Our coaches have stuck with the running game, an incredible defense and special teams that can flip the field to win games.”
But who will be the breakout back?
Jackson correctly notes that A.J. Rose, Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez all ran for over 500 yards last year even with Bowden being the dominant playmaker. Rose ran for 826 yards and six touchdowns last year. Smoke picked up 616 yards and scored six times while Rodriguez had 533 yards and six touchdowns also.
“We’ve got production coming back,” Jackson said. “I don’t think you can really say right now who breaks out this year. But whoever breaks out will be the guy I think who gets the most carries. They all averaged a high amount per carry last year.
“I really have a lot of respect for Chris. He works so hard. He really studies the game. He runs hard and he wants to be great. But the same could be said for Smoke and A.J. I just think the way Chris handled adversity at the beginning of last season just fueled him to have an outstanding second half of the season that he will just keep building on.”
Jackson said not to forget about freshmen Travis Tisdale and JuTahn McClain. Tisdale played in two games last year as a true freshman and while he got only five carries he gained 57 yards and scored once. McClain is a true freshman out of Ohio who ran for 4,406 yards and 53 scores in high school and caught 48 passes for 680 yards and seven more score.
“They are both explosive guys who just say give me the ball, give me a hole and let me take off and outrun everybody. I kind of like that,” Jackson said.