UK Football

What did Kentucky’s coaches think of big boasts from Benny Snell?

Kentucky running back Benny Snell had a comfortable confidence at Southeastern Conference Media Days in Atlanta when discussing his place among the league’s top backs.
Kentucky running back Benny Snell had a comfortable confidence at Southeastern Conference Media Days in Atlanta when discussing his place among the league’s top backs. AP

While Benny Snell’s suit was understated, little about what he said during Kentucky’s turn at Southeastern Conference Media Days was.

Asked several different ways by several different outlets, the junior running back discussed having an edge.

“I know that I’m the best and I’m going to stick to what I know, which is keep the chip on my shoulder, make sure I’m getting better each year,” said Snell, the leading returning rusher in the league after running for 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.

Continuing his “no respect” discussion, Snell explained the chip on his shoulder: “Guys are put over me. Teams are put over Kentucky and that just gives me the motivation to go hard, to be better.”

The junior from Ohio wasn’t shy about his place among running backs in the SEC and nationally.

SEC Media Days Football(3).JPG
Junior running back Benny Snell will be chasing history this season, trying to break a 43-year-old school rushing record. John Amis AP

“From my freshman year to now, I feel like I’m the best I’ve ever been,” he said. “My time is now.”

There was little hesitation when Snell was asked if he’s the best back in the league: “I am the best running back in the SEC.”

Maybe at this time last year, Kentucky’s coaches might have tried to shush the player who is on a quest to break the career rushing record at UK. But not after back-to-back seasons with more than 1,000 yards.

“I love it,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said simply on Wednesday before an alumni luncheon.

“Back it up. Go play,” Gran continued of his Snell assessment. “His first two years here, what you love about him is he comes out and goes to work, practices hard, gives everything he has.

“He’s going to do that. Whether he’s the best running back in the country, that will remain to be seen. You’ve got to love that confidence. … I’m OK with it.”

Nationally, Snell will have some ground to make up to catch some of the top returning backs, including Stanford’s Bryce Love, who had 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns last season or Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor, who had 1,977 yards and 13 scores a year ago.

When Snell said he’s among the best — if not the best — he doesn’t get much of an argument from his head coach, either.

Despite back-to-back bowl games and 17 starters returning, Kentucky football isn’t getting much pre-season love. Star running back Benny Snell says the Cats are used to that.

“There’s been some star running backs in this league and some of them have graduated as you know,” Cats Coach Mark Stoops said at SEC Media Days of Snell, who has 2,424 yards and 32 touchdowns in his two-year career.

“There (have) been some great players, but Benny is certainly worthy of the hype that he gets because of his consistency. He’s done it in this league at Kentucky his first two years … and we look forward to him doing that again this year. Certainly he deserves to be in that kind of conversation.”

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran talk about Benny Snell’s stamina.

Snell’s teammates aren’t shy about joining that conversation, either.

“I believe Benny Snell is the best running back in college football,” senior linebacker Josh Allen said last week. “I go against the guy, and I’ve gone against a lot of great running backs. But going against him and competing with him, I feel like he’s the best. … He’s a slept-on player, but he’s going to wake a lot of teams up.”

Important upcoming UK football dates

Saturday: Women’s Clinic

Aug. 2: Players report for camp

Aug. 3: Media Day

Aug. 4: Fan Day

Sept. 1: Season opener at home vs. Central Michigan

At the annual kickoff luncheon, Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran talked about what he will be looking for during the team’s quarterback competition. Sophomores Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak are the top candidates for the starting job.

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