John Clay

One Kentucky football player in position to rewrite the record books

Kentucky sophomore running back Benny Snell is closing in on a feat that has never been accomplished in recorded UK football history.
Kentucky sophomore running back Benny Snell is closing in on a feat that has never been accomplished in recorded UK football history. aslitz@herald-leader.com

Random notes:

▪ Benny Snell is running toward history. The sophomore needs 279 yards to become the first Kentucky running back to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

UK’s individual football records go back to 1946 and in that time the Cats have never had a 1,000-yard rusher in consecutive seasons.

The great Sonny Collins was the closest. The flashy former Madisonville star rushed for 1,213 yards as a sophomore in 1973, but a broken leg his junior season limited him to 970 yards. Collins returned as a senior in 1975 to rush for 1,150 yards.

The underrated Rafael Little rushed for 1,045 yards as a sophomore in 2005 and 1,013 yards as senior in 2007. Injuries limited Little to 673 yards as a junior in 2006, however.

Boom Williams and Snell each rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. Williams led the way with 1,170 but decided to give up his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Snell set a school freshman rushing record with 1,091 yards. He’s at 721 yards this year.

After rushing for 180 yards last week against Tennessee, Snell next faces a pair of defenses that have struggled to stop the run. This Saturday’s opponent, Ole Miss, is last in the SEC and 127th nationally out of 130 FBS teams in run defense, allowing 260.5 yards per game. The next Saturday’s opponent, Vanderbilt, is 12th in the SEC and 122nd nationally in run defense, allowing 238.7 yards per game.

Kentucky wide receiver Tavin Richardson made two big catches in the win over Tennessee. That wasn’t an accident said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterback Stephen Johnson.

▪ This is just the fifth time in the past 50 years that Kentucky football has been 6-2 or better after eight games. The previous four: 1965, 1977 (7-1), 1984 and 2007. Since 1930, UK has been 6-2 or better after eight games just 10 times.

▪ With football coach Jim McElwain out, Scott Stricklin is on the spot at Florida. After leaving as associate AD at UK to work for Greg Byrne at Mississippi State, Stricklin had a hand in hiring Dan Mullen as football coach. After being elevated to AD at MSU, Stricklin hired first Rick Ray and then Ben Howland as basketball coach.

Mississippi State basketball doesn’t compare to Florida football, however, where first Will Muschamp and then McElwain failed to approach the success the program enjoyed under Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Gator Nation will be looking for Stricklin to get his first big hire at UF right.

▪ If I’m John Currie, I wouldn’t fire Butch Jones, either. The new Tennessee AD voiced his support for Jones after the Vols’ 29-26 loss at Kentucky last Saturday and with reason.

Tennessee was coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons and three straight bowl wins before this year’s disaster. The Volunteers showed a promising redshirt freshman quarterback in Jarrett Guarantano and true freshman running back Ty Chandler against UK. Plus, the Vols are still playing hard for their embattled coach.

Now, a home loss to Southern Miss (Nov. 4) or Vanderbilt (Nov. 25), or a road loss at Missouri (Nov. 11) down the stretch might cause Currie to rethink his position.

▪ After beating Oklahoma and TCU, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell has positioned himself for national Coach of the Year honors. The 37-year-old Campbell recruited ex-Franklin County quarterback Logan Woodside to Toledo where Woodside has thrown for 64 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions over the last two seasons.

Campbell left Toledo for Iowa State where he went 3-9 in 2016. This year, the 14th-ranked Cyclones are 6-2 overall, 4-1 in the Big 12 and (according to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd) have a sign in their locker room that says:

I can always be heard saying PLEASE when asking for something.

When given something, I will always say THANK YOU.

Likewise, when someone says thank you, I will say YOU’RE WELCOME.

To politely interrupt, I will say EXCUSE ME.

I can always be heard saying YES SIR, NO SIR, or YES MA’AM, NO MA’AM to my parents, instructors, coaches, advisors, managers, trainers, etc.

Phrases such as: GOOD MORNING, BE SAFE, HOW ARE YOU and HAVE A GREAT DAY are all part of who I am.

I AM A RESPECTFUL CYCLONE!

Not on the sign: Who says nice guys finish last?

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