Dive into a crowded Kentucky back room

The addition of former NC State Demie Sumo-Karngbaye’s transfer portal was warmly welcomed, followed by a familiar question around the Big Blue Nation, “Another to come back?”

If you include Judge Dingle, who played fullback for the Wildcats in 2022, Kentucky now has Seven running backs on the roster. That’s a lot of players sharing runs. Who will be in the mix and how will they share the rock? KSR takes an in-depth look at what to expect from Wildcat running backs in 2022.

Overview of the rear running room

Ray Davis, Redshirt Senior – Started his career at Temple, then spent the last two seasons at Vanderbilt. Injuries hampered him early in Nashville. He broke through in 2022 as one of four running backs in the SEC to exceed 1,000 rushing yards last fall. The physical runner averaged 4.5 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns.

Ramon Jefferson, Super Senior – He actually started his career playing for Liam Coen in Maine. Transferred to Sam Houston State and became an FCS All-American. Described as a Mighty Mouse, the rumbling, stumbling little bowling ball suffered a season-ending injury during his first run at Kentucky.

Judge Dingle, Super Senior – Started his career at Georgia Tech playing defense. Moved to Kentucky and moved to fullback in 2022. His role in Liam Coen’s attack is unclear.

JuTahn McClain, Senior — A standout with insane numbers at Fairfield High School in Cincinnati, McClain struggled to stay on the field during his time in Kentucky. A two-way player who is an exceptional pass catcher, injuries and a suspension have kept him from playing a full season so far at Lexington.

Half Sumo-Karngbaye, Redshirt Sophomore — Last season at NC State, his first in a big role, DSK had two big games before the injury bug. Like McClain, his pass-catching ability sets him apart from his peers.

Old WrightRedshirt Sophomore — The North Hardin High School product played in all 13 games in 2022 but struggled to produce in Chris Rodriguez’s absence, totaling just 76 yards in the first four games of the season.

Jamarion Wilcox, Freshman – The four-star talent has the most playing potential of the bunch. Clemson and Auburn tried to steal the explosive athlete in the eleventh hour, but Kentucky was able to wrap up on the prospect who had over 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns as a high schooler.

A year without a bell

Over the past seven seasons, the Big Blue Nation has grown accustomed to seeing a tough guy carrying a heavy workload out of the backfield. Chris Rodriguez And Benny Snell are two of the three most productive running backs in school history. It may seem like it now, but those kinds of players don’t grow on trees.

This running back room doesn’t have a player like Rodriguez or Snell who has to carry the football 20-25 times a game. The staff also do not require ball carriers to carry such a heavy load. Devin Leary is quite good at throwing the football and he has weapons to catch passes to the wide receiver and the tight end. The Cats were a roughly 60-40 run team with Benny and C-Rod in the backfield. This will be reversed with Leary throwing at Brown Barion, Dan key And Jordan Dingle.

No turning back is the same

This room is filled with different styles of runners. While there are a few nuances to each player’s game – albeit somewhat unheard of among newcomers – this large group can be broken down into smaller categories.


Need to get some hard yards? Look no further. Liam Coen said in his introductory press conference that his offense needs to be able to move the sticks by running the ball in third and runs. That’s why Kentucky brought Ray Davis in Lexington. He must be that guy. Otherwise, Ramon Jefferson might have the trick to do it between the tackles. However, it’s so difficult to predict what the FCS transfer will be able to do after a season-ending injury.

pass catcher

You can’t always give the ball away to get a first down. Sometimes it needs to be aired. JuTahn McClain And Half Sumo-Karngbaye have each shown this ability to a high degree, albeit in a limited capacity. Ironically, a setter’s best chance of entering the court is to prove that you can also protect the setter by blocking. Whoever wins the professional wars of the past will likely earn the title of “third back”.

The future?

Contrary to most already presented, DSK And Jamarion Wilcox there’s plenty of quality football left in the tank for use in Lexington. Will Kentucky lean on the oldies or see what the youngsters can put on tape? Jay Boulware’s new assistant is hard to read, but the smart money is on this one. The sooner UK know what they got from the young lads in the running room, the better.

Running back NC State Demie Sumo-Karngbaye (Photo courtesy of NC State Athletics)

Ways Liam Coen can incorporate running backs into attack

In a room crowded with running backs, there’s an easy way to get more contact between the guys: play several at once. With a ton of talented tight ends and wide receivers, that’s easier said than done. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at how it might look and work.

Using 21 or 22 (two running backs with one or two tight ends) isn’t the most popular practice among college football’s elite, but it’s certainly one Liam Coen can adapt. No, it’s not a pro style look. Imagine that for a second…

One of the strengths of Devin Leary’s game is his ability to read and react quickly and then accurately deliver a pass down the field. The run-pass option will once again be incorporated into the Kentucky offense. With two running backs at once — ideally one of those road levelers and a pass receiver — Leary can choose to put him back inside or throw him to the perimeter to make the play work. Here’s how Lincoln Riley used it to record his first signature victory in Oklahoma, on the road to Ohio State with Baker Mayfield at quarterback.

RPO was not a critical part of the offense during Liam Coen’s first stint in Kentucky. This will change in 2023, but by how much?

Kentucky must find explosives

No matter who lines up as running back for the Wildcats, one priority stands out above the rest. Kentucky needs to be more explosive to lead football in 2023.

There was no flash in the thunder of Chris Rodriguez. Last fall, Kentucky ranked 13th in the SEC in rushes over 20 yards (11) and dead last in rushes over 30 yards (2). Rodriguez has represented eight of those 13 explosive games.

These stats are surprising, almost as surprising as the fall between Coen and Scangarello offense on third down (50.6% and 5th nationally, to 34.1% and 109th nationally) and zone offense red (85.2% and 17th nationally, to 78.7% and 82nd nationally). ). How to quickly reverse this terrible trend? By creating explosive games, especially in the racing game.

Splitting runs in a crowded room is a challenge unless one player rises to the occasion and produces big plays early in the season on September 2.

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