UK Football

73 running backs were ranked ahead of Benny Snell in the 2016 recruiting class

Recruiting rankings can be a beneficial tool for gauging a high school football prospect’s standing among his peers and the relative strength of a college program’s incoming class of players.

Often, those rankings pan out. But it’s certainly not uncommon — especially in football — for a recruit to “outplay” his ranking once he gets to college. In most cases, that happens as a player gets older, stronger, smarter and realizes his potential a little later than those he was graded against in high school.

More rarely, a lower-ranked prospect emerges as an immediate star.

That’s what’s happening with Kentucky freshman running back Benny Snell.

He certainly wasn’t an unknown prospect coming out of Westerville Central High School in Ohio, but few could have envisioned the true freshman season that Snell is having for the Wildcats, especially with veterans Boom Williams and Jojo Kemp, as well as previous contributors Sihiem King and Mikel Horton, already on UK’s roster when he arrived in Lexington.

According to the 247Sports composite rankings for the 2016 recruiting class, Snell was the No. 74 running back nationally in that group. He’s arguably been the best true freshman running back in the country so far this season.

Snell has more total carries (118) than any of the 73 running backs that were ranked ahead of him coming out of high school. His eight rushing touchdowns are second only to Georgia Tech’s Dedrick Mills, who has nine. And his 661 yards are second only to the 776 put up by Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams, who was considered an “all-purpose” running back in the 2016 rankings.

Only four true freshman running backs have more than five rushing TDs this season: Mills (9), Snell (8), Missouri’s Damarea Crockett (7) and A&M’s Williams (6). And only four have more than 500 yards rushing: Williams (776), Snell (661), Crockett (601) and Maryland’s Lorenzo Harrison (575).

Through eight games this season, Snell has accounted for 33.6 percent of UK’s carries. No true freshman in the country has a higher share. Only Williams (31.0 percent), Crockett (29.0) and Mills (25.7) have more than 25 percent of their team’s carries.

Many of the running backs ranked ahead of Snell have not yet played this season — some will redshirt, others have changed positions — and came into situations with proven, veteran players way ahead of them on the depth chart.

But Snell has done what he’s done despite sharing a backfield with Boom Williams, who has 821 yards this season and ranks among the top 25 nationally in rushing. Snell has also jumped ahead of several others on UK’s depth chart with continued success on the practice and playing field.

The chart below shows season stats for the top 75 running backs from the class of 2016 (including the percentage of a team’s carries each player has been responsible for). Blank boxes indicate that freshman has not yet played this season.

247Sports’ Top 75 running backs in the class of 2016

Rk

Player (school)

Att

Yds

TDs

Carry %

1

Miles Sanders (Penn State)

10

62

1

3.3

2

Tavien Fester (Clemson)

16

139

2

5.4

3

B.J. Emmons (Alabama)

35

173

1

9.8

4

Demario McCall (Ohio State)

20

144

2

5.3

5

Devwah Whaley (Arkansas)

57

317

1

17.6

6

Kareem Walker (Michigan)

7

Devin White (LSU)*

8

Damian Alloway (UCLA)^

9

Elijah Holyfield (Georgia)

5

29

0

1.5

10

Antonio Williams (Ohio State)

6

28

0

1.6

11

Melquise Stovall (California)^

3

10

0

1.1

12

Vavae Malepeai (USC)

13

Amir Rasul (Florida State)

6

46

0

1.8

14

Sean McGrew (Washington)

15

D'Vaughn Pennamon (Mississippi)

19

66

1

7.2

16

Travis Homer (Miami)

5

35

0

1.9

17

Kam Martin (Auburn)

18

Kyle Porter (Texas)

33

135

0

8.5

19

Carlin Fils-aime (Tennessee)

4

19

0

1.2

20

Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M)

99

776

6

31.0

21

Tony Jones Jr. (Notre Dame)

22

Justin Connor (East Mississippi)

23

Abdul Adams (Oklahoma)

41

215

0

12.7

24

Chris Evans (Michigan)

53

424

3

14.3

25

Beau Bisharat (Colorado)

15

45

0

3.9

26

Demetric Felton (UCLA)^

27

Kentrail Moran (New Mexico)

28

Trevor Speights (Stanford)

29

Brandon Stephens (UCLA)

16

75

0

6.6

30

Denzel Mitchell (UAB)

31

Matthew Falcon (Western Michigan)

32

Malik Miller (Auburn)

16

69

1

3.7

33

Rakeem Boyd (Texas A&M)

34

Jeremy Larkin (Northwestern)

35

Rico Dowdle (South Carolina)

59

291

3

21.3

36

Josh Jacobs (Alabama)

53

381

3

14.9

37

Martell Pettaway (West Virginia)

38

Darius Anderson (TCU)

7

39

0

2.6

39

Jordon Brown (North Carolina)

8

9

0

3.2

40

McArthur Burnett (Florida)*

41

Azende Rey (Florida A&M)

42

Lamical Perine (Florida)

63

333

1

22.9

43

Brittain Brown (Duke)

44

Damarea Crockett (Missouri)

96

601

7

29.0

45

Trey Sneed (Rutgers)

15

50

0

4.3

46

Tre Harbison (Northern Illinois)

47

Kiante Enis (Indiana)

48

Tre Bryant (Nebraska)

18

75

1

5.0

49

CJ Freeman (South Carolina)

50

Jalin Buie (South Alabama)

51

Jarrion Street (Mississippi)*

52

Toks Akinribade (Iowa)

12

23

0

4.1

53

Kennedy McCoy (West Virginia)

25

259

0

8.4

54

Da'Leon Ward (Texas Tech)

36

156

1

14.9

55

Zion Echols (California)^

56

Tre Turner (Arizona State)

57

JaQua Daniels (Marshall)

58

Tyrek Tisdale (Maryland)

59

Alexander Mattsion (Boise State)

24

143

2

8.4

60

Andrew Lee (Hutchinson CC)

61

Mulbah Car (Houston)

49

206

2

11.7

62

Kingston Davis (Michigan)

2

17

0

0.5

63

Dedrick Mills (Georgia Tech)

95

446

9

25.7

64

Deon McIntosh (Notre Dame)

65

Romello Harris (Washington State)

66

Tyliek Raynor (Temple)

67

Freddie Holly (Hawaii)

68

Sam Brodner (Wisconsin)

69

D'Angelo Ware (Florida International)

70

Barrington Wade (Iowa)*

71

Brian Herrien (Georgia)

54

345

3

16.7

72

Lorenzo Harrison (Maryland)

79

575

5

22.6

73

LaDarren Brown Oklahoma State)

74

Benny Snell (Kentucky)

118

661

8

33.6

75

Chawntez Moss (Pittsburgh)

36

223

1

9.9

^-Moved to wide receiver | *-Moved to defense

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