At least one potential playmaker has been cleared to make a few in fall camp.
Before an annual speaking engagement in front of the Jefferson County Alumni Association at the Galt House, Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran confirmed that running back Bryant Koback is back to 100 percent.
The freshman, who arrived on campus in the spring but was held out of practices and workouts while rehabbing a broken leg, is ready to compete for snaps, Gran said.
“One hundred percent ready for camp, doing everything that everybody else is doing,” UK’s running backs coach said. “There will be no limitations, so he’s been going through everything so far the last couple months.”
While Mark Stoops discussed depth and veteran experience across the board offensively, the head coach noted before the full ballroom of blue backers that running back is a spot where UK will need to see more talent emerge.
The Cats return their second-leading rusher in Benny Snell, who ran for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns on 186 carries. The All-SEC player broke several freshman records.
But Snell is the main running threat back with the departure of Boom Williams (1,170 yards, seven touchdowns) and the graduation of Jojo Kemp (349 yards, six touchdowns).
The Cats return little-used running back Sihiem King, and are looking for other options at that spot.
Will a true freshman such as Koback get a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation, which also includes redshirt freshman A.J. Rose?
“Always. I think Benny Snell proved that, right?” Gran said. “I mean the one thing I always talk about is competition. 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.”
Kentucky will have to find production. It doesn’t matter what the age and year in school, Gran said.
“We’ve got to figure out (how to get) another 1,000 yards. Where that comes from,” Gran said. “You know, you’ve got Sihiem King, you’ve got A.J. Rose and some of those guys are going to have to step up. There’s not a choice.”
One of the key questions for the offense this preseason is how the Cats will go about replacing big-play threats in Williams and speedy wide out Jeff Badet, who graduated and transferred to Oklahoma.
Gran offered up several candidates, including senior wide receivers Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker, the latter of which missed much of last season with a hamstring injury.
Baker has been inconsistent at times, but Gran said: “I think he’s getting a lot better. He’s physical; he’s fast. He looks great right now.”
The UK offensive coordinator also mentioned needing to get something from wideouts like Blake Bone and Tavin Richardson. He seemed pleased with the play of some of the Cats’ young wide receivers who arrived this summer.
“We’ve got some weapons, it’s just about finding out who can come in and get it done,” Gran said.
Other news and notes
There’s been much anticipation about the arrival of Kentucky freshman Lynn Bowden, a wide receiver from Youngstown, Ohio. He was a four-star prospect by all major recruiting services and ranked among the nation’s top 100 players.
Bowden, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who could see time at myriad positions, missed summer workouts while finishing up some work at home. Will that set him back in the chase for playing time?
Gran said: “I don’t bank on any freshman. Nobody knew Benny (Snell) was going to be what he is. Landon Young got a lot of playing time. That all comes with maturity, your physical ability to get it done in those situations.
“If he is, he’ll play. If he’s not, does it hurt him? Absolutely. He’s a smart young man and he’ll come in. He’s a competitor. So we’ll just see how that one plays out.”
▪ “Yahtzee!” will no longer just be something fans and coaches say when Kentucky lands a new commitment. The UK marketing folks have announced a plan to get to 40,000 season tickets by promising that one section of Kroger Field will have a chance to get in on a different type of Yahtzee.
Once UK gets to that season ticket mark (the school reports it is at 32,375 as of Wednesday), it promises that at each home game, fans in one section will be chosen to play Yahtzee. Every fan who rolls a Yahtzee (five dice showing one number) will get two free tickets for the 2018 season. UK last sold more than 40,000 season tickets in 2013 (40,872), Stoops’ first as coach.
▪ It’s the time of year for preseason prognostication, and Stoops was asked his thoughts on the Cats being picked to finish fifth in the Southeastern Conference East Division by the media at SEC Media Days last week. “What does it matter? I’m really concerned about where we finish at the end of the year. That’s our concentration.”
▪ Kentucky will hold open tryouts for prospective public address announcers and in-game hosts at athletics events for a variety of sports for the upcoming season on Aug. 2 at John Cropp Stadium. In a news release, UK said it is seeking “energetic and confident individuals with strong vocal talent and experience on a live microphone. Knowledge of sports and corresponding rules, as well as proficiency enunciating complex names and availability for nights and weekends will also be considered.” Those interested can visit ukathletics.com/pahost for more information.