LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mark Stoops looked comfortable and sounded confident as he spoke to a packed ballroom of Kentucky alumni in Louisville last week. Stoops gave an overview of the Wildcats offense and raved about its depth, except at running back.
That’s because the Cats return just three scholarship running backs: sophomore starter Benny Snell, junior Sihiem King, and redshirt freshman A.J. Rose. Snell will handle the bulk of the carries while King and Rose fight for the second-team spot.
The depth chart listed King “OR” Rose as the No. 2 running back, but both will be featured in the rotation.
After losing Boom Williams to the NFL draft and Jojo Kemp to graduation, the Wildcats lack both depth and experience at the position. However, the group received a bit of good news when offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said last week that freshman running back Bryant Koback is 100 percent ready for camp after breaking his leg during his senior season in high school.
“Exactly that: 100 percent ready for camp, doing everything that everybody else is doing, because in the spring he was held out to get better and go through physical therapy,” Gran said. “[Director of performance Corey Edmond] and his staff said there will be no limitations, so he’s been going through everything so far the last couple months.”
Koback was the only running back signee in Kentucky’s 2017 class. The 3-star prospect from Holland, Ohio, was ranked the No. 34 back in the class, according to 247Sports.
He was one of seven early enrollees who arrived in Lexington in January. That early start might’ve played a key role in his rehab.
“Everything is more advanced here — the technology, the trainers are outstanding,” Koback said in January. “They work with you in and out on everything making sure you’re doing everything correct on every little movement.”
Snell, King and Rose are the known members of the rotation, but a healthy Koback could be another reliable piece despite his freshman status.
“I think Benny Snell proved that, right? I mean the one thing I always talk about is competition,” Gran said. “There is no job locked in. If you go into it that way, then you’re giving nobody else a chance. We love competition.
“When we recruited Bryant, I told him we were going to try and find another running back that’s better than him and keep doing that each year. And if we keep doing that then we’ve got a chance to be successful.”