Before a recent game, Benny Snell’s coach looked him right in the eye and said: “Don’t leave a record unbroken; break them all.”
That Kentucky coach doesn’t even seem to mind that many of those records belong to him.
In a fascinating twist of timing, former Cats running back Moe Williams arrived back on campus to become a student assistant coach at the same time Snell showed up as a true freshman from Westerville, Ohio.
It’s meant Williams has had a sideline view of records being smashed by the freshman phenom this season.
“He told me I broke one of his records the last game,” Snell said of Williams. “He told me just keep it moving, keep it going.”
There’s no doubt Williams will pull Snell aside before Saturday’s game at Tennessee with a similar message. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound freshman needs just 154 yards to break Williams’ school record for most rushing yards by a freshman.
“I believe records are made to be broken and he’s doing a great job of it,” Williams told the Herald-Leader recently in between taking a full load of classes to finish his undergraduate degree and student coaching.
“It’s awesome for me, too, because I’m part of the coaching staff that’s helped him break the record. … Win-win for me.”
I believe records are made to be broken and he’s doing a great job of it. It’s awesome for me, too, because I’m part of the coaching staff that’s helped him break the record. … Win-win for me.
Moe Williams, on UK freshman Benny Snell
It’s been a win for all of Kentucky’s running backs — including junior Boom Williams, who has broken a couple of the elder Williams’ records as well — to have a 10-year NFL veteran on the staff.
“He’s a really big part of how the running backs got their arsenal and moves,” Snell said of Moe Williams.
The elder Williams, who said he’s learned an incredible amount from coaching under Cats offensive coordinator Eddie Gran this season, tries to offer as many tips and tricks as he can to the current Cats.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about going through the hole and not switching the ball into your other arm in traffic.
“You’ve got to hold the ball where it is,” Williams tells the newest UK running backs. “Work on stiff-arming and stuff. I’ve noticed (Snell has) used that a lot more lately with his strength and power and all that. Just little things we’re going to keep working on.”
The stiff arm is definitely something Williams has helped him develop, Snell said. And there’s a spin move and some other extras the former UK running back has offered tips on.
Williams, who is second all-time in the Kentucky record books in rushing with 3,333 career yards, sees some similarities between himself and Snell.
“He doesn’t get to contact and stop then restart his legs,” Williams said of Snell, who is on pace to have more than 1,200 rushing yards if the Cats play in a bowl game. “His legs are just constantly moving through contact. Those are things you can teach them, but that’s more natural to Benny.”
Kentucky’s defenders can attest to that. When asked what makes Snell, who has 775 yards and 10 touchdowns in nine games (only seven where he got a carry), so difficult to stop, Blake McClain laughed.
The senior defensive back has run up against Snell enough times to feel for opposing defenders.
“His legs are huge,” McClain said of Snell, his eyes getting wide. “That’s what it is and he don’t stop moving them. When you hit him, he keeps moving them.”
It’s easy to see what makes Snell special, especially late in the game like against Georgia when the freshman had 10 of his 21 carries on the last drive, Moe Williams said.
“As a running back, it’s good to get into a rhythm, get into a flow and make your cuts against a defense that’s getting tired,” Williams said. “You wear them down, especially when you run as hard as Benny runs. As a defensive back, you don’t want to come up and take that punishment.”
And when defenders do come up expecting Snell to try and run them over, he’s now able to make a quick cut to the outside.
“When you establish a way of running and then when the game goes, you have the ability to switch it up, it’s very difficult for the defense,” continued Moe Williams, of Snell, who is the only individual to rush for more than 100 yards against Georgia this season and the first UK player to do it since Artose Pinner in 2002.
Snell’s 100-plus yards against the Bulldogs last week tied the Cats’ record for most 100-yard rushing games by a freshman with four.
The other players who did that? Chris Jones in 1979 and, yes, Moe Williams in 1993.
There likely will be more Williams records to fall this season, including Snell and Boom Williams needing just 207 yards to set a school record for combined rushing yards by a pair of players in a single season. The current record of 1,879 yards was set even before Moe Williams, back in 1974 by Sonny Collins and Mike Fanuzzi.
Moe Williams had 13 career games of 100 yards or more and Boom Williams has 10.
So it’s likely the 42-year-old former Kentucky standout will be in the ears of both running backs in the coming weeks, not just as a coach, but as a cheerleader.
“I’m very glad to have him,” Snell said of Moe Williams. “He’s a great guy — a great part of history — who wouldn’t want to have him?”
Yards per carry
Yards per game
Kentucky at Tennessee
Noon (SEC Network)