LEXINGTON, Ky. — A.J. Rose has played every role but his own.
Rose, a redshirt running back, was Lamar Jackson before Kentucky played Louisville. He was Nick Chubb before the Wildcats played Georgia, and Alvin Kamara before their game against Tennessee.
The scout team player extraordinaire takes on the style and skill of whoever leads the offense of Kentucky’s opponent. Rose quarterbacked Georgia Tech’s triple option attack in practices for Kentucky’s TaxSlayer Bowl game against the Yellow Jackets. That game is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on New Year’s Eve in Jacksonville, Fla.
“He mimics everybody that’s a star player and he does just as good of a job as they would or even better,” first-team linebacker Denzil Ware said.
Rose and the Kentucky scout team’s role is crucial for Ware and the Wildcats defense.
“Especially this week, facing an offense that they don’t see — ever,” Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. “So we have to have that look because they’re not used to getting those type of reps, and the speed of the game. If we’ve got guys that can play fast and give us that look, then we’re gonna play faster on the game.”
Kentucky’s scout team offense is a hodgepodge of players in positions not normally their own. Georgia Tech’s offensive line is smaller but faster. Scout team linebacker Drew Schlegel is playing guard and tight ends are playing tackle to simulate how quick Georgia Tech’s line will pull and cut.
Rose is a regular contributor for the Kentucky scout team. Freshmen who haven’t played aren’t available to speak to the media, but veteran teammates were able to speak to Rose’s role on scout team.
“He’s hard to tackle,” Ware said. “And by hard to tackle I mean he’s hard to tackle. He’s shifty, he has good feet, he’s fast. He just has a feel for the game.”
Kentucky veterans relish Rose’s role
Rose’s scout role is one Ware knows well. He redshirted his first year and remembers playing scout team linebacker against Kentucky’s offense. Ware went up against Darrian Miller, whom he considered the Wildcats’ top offensive lineman. Miller went on to a brief NFL stint with the Cleveland Browns. Ware saw it as a chance to give himself reps against the best available opponent.
Now that Ware is a starter he is trying to convince Rose that scout reps are worthwhile.
“You go against our defense, our best defensive player every day,” Ware told Rose. “Why not take advantage of that? Why not attack it? Why not get better going against the best every day?”
Ware’s reps against Miller earned him a starting role soon after. While the payoff for Rose hasn’t shown itself yet, especially with the role he’s seen fellow freshman running back Benny Snell take on, the hope for him will be a contributing spot.
“One of the things we really talked to him about was learning our offense and making sure he really honed in on that,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. “I can already tell he is light years away from where he was in the fall. He’s really locking in. But he really does have — he’s got some talent.”
That’s the next step for Rose: playing his own role rather than someone else’s.