Kentucky Backs and Receivers Preview

Kentucky Backs And Receivers Preview
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 16: Wide receiver Josh Ali #6 of the Kentucky Wildcats catches a tipped pass for a touchdown against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Big Things Expected From The Returning Players

A season ago both of Kentucky’s starting quarterbacks, Terry Wilson and Sawyer Smith went down with injury. As a result Mark Stoops had to move former high school quarterback Lynn Bowden from receiver to under center. Because of this the Cats became an almost totally run oriented team. Bowden’s moved onto the Las Vegas Raiders but the top four running backs return. As we begin our Kentucky backs and receivers preview we’ll look at each and also the guys catching the passes by Wilson.

Back For His Senior Year

The first man up in the Kentucky backfield is senior A.J. Rose. The senior out of Cleveland, Ohio was second on the team in rushing yards with 826. In addition he found the end zone six times. He also caught 11 passes a season ago. For his career Rose has 1,305 yards which ranks him 28th on the all-time UK rushing list. Rose entertained ideas of going to the NFL but came back for his final year.

A crazy stat for you; Rose has four 1,000 yard games at Kentucky, in each one he’s rushed less than ten times. Kentucky’s has had a back run for over 1,000 yards each of the last four seasons and Rose is good bet to make it five. It’s entirely possible the Cats have more than one back reach 1,000 and we’re going to look at two more candidates.

Two More Really Good Options

A couple of years ago Kentucky featured the “Boom and Benny” show with Stanley “Boom” Williams and Benny Snell. One would run over you while the other ran around you. It’s a similar thing in 2020 with Kavosiey Smoke and Christopher Rodriguez. The redshirt sophomore with one of the best names in football ran 101 times for 616 yards and six scores. In addition he ranked in the top ten in SEC freshmen in several categories. His best game came against Vanderbilt when he rushed for 95 yards.

With Smoke providing the flash that leaves Rodriquez with the power. Another redshirt sophomore Rodriguez ran for 533 yards and six touchdowns on only 71 carries. If you’re scoring at home that’s a ridiculous 7.5 yards per carry, second only to Bowden’s school record 7.9. In addition he crossed the century mark twice with 129 against Vanderbilt and 125 in the Cats’ historic win over Louisville.

One other name to remember is redshirt freshman Travis Tisdale. The former ESPN 300 recruit out of Georgia saw limited time in 2019 but put up some impressive stats. He ran only five times but gained 57 yards, that’s over 11 yards a carry. Look for him to see more time in 2020 especially returning kicks.

Kentucky ranked fourth in the country with 3,624 yards rushing and 6.32 yards per carry. That put them only behind Clemson in the country. The Wildcats have a very talented backfield however much of the credit has to go to the offensive line. In the “Big Blue Wall” the Cats have one of if not the best offensive line in the SEC.

Now that’s we’ve covered the runners in our Kentucky backs and receivers preview let’s  now turn to the receivers.

Looking To Step Up

As mentioned earlier Bowden only played five games at wide receiver in 2019. However despite playing the last eight at quarterback he still led the team in receptions with 30. With last year’s Paul Hornung Award Winner gone look for several players to take that next step.

The main threat at the receiver position is Josh Ali. The senior finished second on the team with 23 receptions. However he came up big when the Cats needed him in the Belk Bowl. He caught not only the fourth and long which kept the drive alive but the game winner in the thriller over Virginia Tech.

Along with Ali the other likely starting candidates are Allen Dailey Jr. and Bryce Oliver. The six foot three Dailey caught seven passes for 75 yards as a sophomore. In addition his height makes him a logical replacement to Ahmad Wagner as the player Wilson throws the jump ball to. Oliver caught six passes for 111 yards and a touchdown during the 2019 campaign.

Another name looking for a big return in 2020 is junior Isaiah Epps. Two years ago Epps hauled in eight passes for 76 yards. However he missed last season with a foot injury. Other players to watch are junior Clevan Thomas, along with two freshman Tae Tae Crumes and DeMarcus Harris.

Justin Rigg is the starter at tight end. In addition to being one of the best blocking ends in the SEC he caught 11 passes for 128 yards. The Cats second tight end is Keaton Upshaw. As a sophomore he hauled in seven passes including a touchdown against Florida.

A Fun Offense For True Blue Fans

As you can see offensive coordinators Eddie Gran and Darrin Hinshaw have a ton of weapons at Wilson’s disposal. It’s very likely the main threat may change from game to game depending on who has the hot hand. Last season the Cats became totally one dimensional but the amazing thing is defenses knew they were running the ball and still couldn’t stop them. Again a lot of the credit goes to the offensive line.

Thanks for checking out our Kentucky Backs and Receivers Preview here at Last Word On College Football. While we still don’t know what kind of season we’ll have in 2020 or if there is even going to be college football we’ll get you ready for what is expected to be a big year in Lexington. Next time out we’re featuring the “Big Blue Wall” and also the defensive line.

 

 

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Kevin lives in Lexington, Kentucky with his wife Dr. Rachel McGuffey and two kids Ryan and Mary Beth. He can be heard talking SEC Football On The Hill with Pat Jenkins and with Mark Rogers of Mark Rogers TV. He also is a contributor to the Hey Kentucky program that airs on WLEX-TV in Lexington. He is a fan of Kentucky football and basketball along with the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals, Green Bay Packers and Golden State Warriors. He can be reached via Twitter @KevinMcGuffey

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