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Football Season Coverage

Benny Snell listed as top-15 running back in the nation

Benny Snell has shattered record after record in his first two seasons at Kentucky, and it won’t be a major surprise to people if there aren’t any left to break by the time his career comes to a close. He already holds the UK record for most career touchdowns, most scores in a season, first back in UK football history with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and plenty more.

He was considered one of the best backs in the SEC last year, and for good reason. Only Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson finished with more rushing yards (1,391) and touchdowns (20) to end the year than Snell’s 1,333 yards and 19 scores, and he likely would’ve toppled those numbers had he not been (wrongly) ejected early in the Music City Bowl.

Needless to say, the hype surrounding Snell’s upcoming junior campaign is building at a rapid pace.

Athlon Sports listed Snell, along with CJ Conrad, Lynn Bowden, Bunchy Stallings, Josh Allen, and Mike Edwards, on their preseason All-SEC team. The Wildcat running back is listed as a First-Team nominee, joining only Edwards as Kentucky’s representatives as the top player in the conference at their respective positions.

Nationally, though, Snell has some ground to make up on other elite running backs. If you ask Athlon, at least.

Athlon Sports ranked the top 50 backs in all of college football, and the Kentucky junior surprisingly failed to crack the top-10, coming in at No. 12.

12. Benny Snell, Kentucky

With Kentucky’s offense breaking in a new quarterback, Snell should expect another heavy workload in 2018. After rushing for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman in 2016, Snell improved on those totals last fall. Over 13 games, Snell rushed for 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns. Snell leads the way among returning backs in the SEC.

Kentucky having a top-15 running back in the nation is obviously a major accomplishment and should be celebrated accordingly. When you look at the top of the list and see who they list as the backs “better” than Snell, however, you can’t help but feel he got robbed.

Four backs ahead of Snell finished with fewer yards, and only three of the top-11 had more touchdowns than the Kentucky back. Three of them played in the play-as-little-defense-as-possible Big 12, and another isn’t even from a Power Five school. Put Snell against those defenses and he’s destroying the competition.

Former Kentucky recruit and Richmond native Damien Harris is also above Snell on the list, coming in at No. 8.

You cannot tell me there are 11 other running backs better than Benny Snell. Sorry.

Either way, just more bulletin board material for a guy who thrives off doubters.

You can find the entire list here.


Kentucky one of strongest advocates against stadium-wide alcohol sales

Kentucky one of strongest advocates against stadium-wide alcohol sales

As we reported yesterday, the Southeastern Conference once again deferred on removing the ban on stadium-wide alcohol sales at games; today, we found out Kentucky is one of the schools fighting the hardest to keep it in place.

According to Sports Illustrated, during discussions this week at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Kentucky and Georgia were the strongest advocates for keeping the current policy, which only allows alcohol sales in premium areas. The SEC is the only Power 5 conference with this kind of loophole, which, as Nick Roush wrote yesterday, is completely hypocritical:

Alcohol Sales for the General Public at SEC Football Games isn’t Happening Anytime Soon

I’ve done enough preaching on this topic, but if the SEC is going to allow alcohol sales in part of the stadium, they need to allow it in the entire stadium.

Worried about it affecting the family atmosphere at games? First, I guarantee three people on your row already sneak in a flask or chug beers in the parking lot. Second, the NCAA just voted to allow alcohol sales at championship events after a two-year pilot program in which they discovered the number of alcohol-related incidents actually went down, “in some cases significantly.” Heck, even West Virginia — the hottest mess of them all — cited reduced incidents of binge drinking once they started selling alcohol stadium wide. And don’t get me started on the amount of money it would bring in. It’s enough to make Scrooge McDuck blush.

The fact that this ban still exists is annoying enough; the fact that Kentucky’s fighting to keep it in place?

[Sports Illustrated]


SEC grad transfers now have immediate eligibility if they transfer intraconference

Here’s one interesting note from the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin. According to Brett McMurphy, the league’s presidents just voted to allow grad transfers who transfer from one SEC school to another immediate eligibility. Under the previous policy, the SEC required grad transfers to sit out one year if they transferred to another school in the league.

The grad transfer market is already crazy in both basketball and football; this will make it absolutely bonkers. The new rule could directly affect Alabama backup center Brandon Kennedy, who announced he was going to transfer earlier this month to either Tennessee or Auburn, but was denied, prompting this response from Nick Saban.

“I don’t think it should be on me,” he said, via Marc Weiszer. “I think we should change the rule. If we agree at the SEC at these meetings that we’re going to have free agency in our league and everyone can go wherever they want to go when they graduate, that’s what’s best for the game, then that’s what we should do. Then Brandon Kennedy can go where ever he wants to go.”

Sounds like he might be able to.


UK Football game times for Weeks 1, 2, 3 released

Get out that planner because game times for Weeks 1, 2, and 3 of the 2018 Kentucky football season were just released, along with broadcast information.

Kentucky will open the season vs. Central Michigan on September 1 at 3:30 p.m. at Kroger Field. The game will be televised on ESPNU. On September 8, they’ll travel to Florida to take on the Gators under the lights at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network. On September 15, they’ll host Murray State at noon at Kroger field on SEC Network Alternate.

Here are all the SEC Week 1, 2, and 3 game times for scheduling purposes:

Date Time (ET) Game Network
Thu, Aug 30 8:30 p.m. Northwestern State at Texas A&M SEC Network
Sat, Sept 1 Noon Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech (Houston) ESPN
  Coastal Carolina at South Carolina SEC Network
  3:30 p.m. Washington vs. Auburn (Atlanta) ABC
  Austin Peay at Georgia ESPN
  Central Michigan at Kentucky ESPNU
  4 p.m. Eastern Illinois at Arkansas SEC Network
  UT Martin at Missouri SEC Network Alternate
  7:30 p.m. Stephen F. Austin at Miss. State ESPNU
  Charleston Southern at Florida SEC Network
  Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt SEC Network Alternate
  8 p.m. Alabama vs. Louisville (Orlando) ABC
Sun, Sept 2 7:30 p.m. LSU vs. Miami (Arlington) ABC
Sat, Sept 8 Noon Miss. State at Kansas State ESPN
  Nevada at Vanderbilt SEC Network
  3:30 p.m. Arkansas State at Alabama ESPN2
  4 p.m. East Tennessee State at Tennessee SEC Network
  Southern Illinois at Ole Miss SEC Network Alternate
  7 p.m. Clemson at Texas A&M ESPN
  Southeastern Louisiana at LSU ESPN2/ESPNU
  Wyoming at Missouri ESPN2/ESPNU
  7:30 p.m. Kentucky at Florida SEC Network
  Alabama State at Auburn SEC Network Alternate
Sat, Sept 15 Noon UTEP at Tennessee SEC Network
  Murray State at Kentucky SEC Network Alternate
  4 p.m. Colorado State at Florida SEC Network
  North Texas at Arkansas SEC Network Alternate
  7 p.m. Alabama at Ole Miss ESPN
  7:15 p.m. Middle Tennessee at Georgia ESPN2
  7:30 p.m. Louisiana Monroe at Texas A&M SEC Network
  Louisiana Lafayette at Miss. State SEC Network Alternate
  Marshall at South Carolina ESPNU
Thu, Nov 22 7:30 p.m. Mississippi State at Ole Miss ESPN

[ESPN]


Alcohol Sales for the General Public at SEC Football Games isn’t Happening Anytime Soon

Alcohol Sales for the General Public at SEC Football Games isn’t Happening Anytime Soon

In the SEC it just means more…unless you’re talking about alcohol.

For the umpteenth year in a row, league officials punted on removing the stadium-wide ban of alcohol sales at SEC schools.  Speaking at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida, commissioner Greg Sankey provided a statement with little confidence that a significant change will happen.

“There has been ongoing dialogue,” Sankey said.  “That’s not a topic that exists only when the newspaper articles are written two weeks before Destin every year. But that hasn’t produced change at this point among our membership.”

To remove the (stupid) rule, it would require a majority vote from the league’s 14 presidents/chancellors.  The Knoxville News Sentinel spoke with athletic directors from Florida and Alabama, neither of which believe it’s happening anytime soon.  When Sankey was asked if a vote could potentially happen, he replied:

“It hasn’t happened so far,” Sankey said. “Perhaps every day we’re closer, but that doesn’t mean we are.”

The SEC’s stance on alcohol sales could not be more hypocritical.  According to the SEC, alcohol is not bad if you’re rich.  If you can afford to sit in a suite, drink all you want.  If you’re too poor, sorry Charlie.  Keep those suds in the parking lot.

Officials who want to keep alcohol out of the hands of the general public will argue that booze in stadiums will inflame bad behavior.  They also might believe it goes against the values of a conservative south.  However, if people can’t buy booze from their seats, they’re either going to get too much before the game, or sneak it into the stands.  If you hold a moral opposition against any alcohol inside stadiums, than you’re a hypocrite for allowing those in the suites to consume alcohol.

As Sankey mentioned, this topic is brought up every year at the SEC Spring Meetings, and every year nothing happens.  Meanwhile, the league is losing out on millions in alcohol revenue.  At this point, keeping the alcohol ban makes absolutely no sense.


The Hottest Cat to Ever Play Football at Kentucky is…

The Hottest Cat to Ever Play Football at Kentucky is…

Freddie Maggard of course.  He brought plenty of spice to Commonwealth Stadium with Bull Curry in 1990.

Wait.  Hold up.  That’s not right.

Wikipedia tells me the 1990 Kentucky Wildcats finished just 4-7.  Freddie threw for more than 1,000 yards, but his season and career ended early with a shoulder injury.

Believe it or not, a preseason college football magazine was wrong.  Not to take shots at Athlon, Phil Steele or any of the other find publications, but it’s wise to remember to take each prediction with a grain of salt as the analysts pick apart Kentucky before the 2018 season.  More likely than not, they will be wrong.


Derrick Ramsey named Secretary of Education and Workforce Development

Former Kentucky quarterback Derrick Ramsey has a new job in Frankfort.  This afternoon Governor Matt Bevin announced Ramsey will replace Hal Heiner as the Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

For the last two and a half years, Ramsey has served as the state’s Secretary of Labor.  In his new position, Ramsey will be responsible for educating, training and preparing Kentucky’s future work force.  Ramsey previously served as the Deputy Secretary of Commerce under Governor Ernie Fletcher.

“I am extremely thankful that Gov. Bevin has faith in my ability,” Ramsey said in a statement.  “I am very passionate about education and workforce development and, more importantly, the opportunity to help shape education and workforce development programs for generations to come.  I look forward to this endeavor.”

Ramsey became a Kentucky legend on the football field.  The Wildcats’ first African-American starting quarterback, Ramsey led UK to an SEC Championship and a Peach Bowl victory in 1976.  The following season he was a Third Team All-American for the 10-1 Cats that finished No. 6 in the AP Poll.  Ramsey played tight end for nine years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders in 1980.

Congratulations to Ramsey, truly one of Kentucky’s best.


Marcus Walker dismissed from the team

Marcus Walker is no longer a member of the Kentucky football team.

Mark Stoops announced Tuesday he has dismissed Walker following the junior defensive back’s arrest on drug trafficking charges. Walker was arrested last Thursday and charged with trafficking over five pounds of marijuana and over four grams of cocaine.

UK Football’s Marcus Walker arrested on drug charges

Stoops did not provide any additional comment regarding the dismissal.


What would it take for Benny Snell to take home the Heisman?

It’s no secret we’re big Benny Snell fans here in the state of Kentucky, and that love is starting to spread nationwide. After coming out of high school as just a three-star running back prospect, Snell has dominated SEC football over the last two years, breaking several school records along the way.

After an incredibly impressive sophomore season, especially during the Music City Bowl fiasco, whispers of a Heisman campaign begun. He hadn’t reached the historic numbers necessary for consideration quite yet, but the potential was obviously there.

Some are already penciling him in as a darkhorse candidate.

Others realize Snell is a stud back, but aren’t ready to pull the trigger on the #Benny4Heisman campaign.

So what would it take for Kentucky’s superstar back to actually take home the most prestigious individual award in all of college football?

When you go down the list of past Heisman winners and candidates, it’s no surprise it would take a legendary performance to even come close.

Reggie Bush took home the Heisman trophy in 2005, just one of three running backs to win the award in the last two decades. He finished with 1740 yards (8.7 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns on the ground, to go with 478 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions. His trophy was later vacated for violation of NCAA rules, but there’s no denying Bush was one of the most electric college football players we had seen in quite some time.

Back in 2009, Mark Ingram won the Heisman in the closest margin of victory of all time, finishing the year with 1658 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and 17 touchdowns to go with 30 receptions for 322 yards. He beat out Stanford’s Toby Gerhard, who finished with 1871 rushing yards (5.5 yards per carry) and 28 touchdowns.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon finished second in voting in 2014, despite a dominant 2587-yard, 29-touchdown junior season. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota came out on top following his ridiculous 42-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a junior.

Alabama running back Derrick Henry won the award in 2015 after setting the SEC single-season rushing record with 1,986 rushing yards and tied the record for rushing touchdowns with 23. According to the official Heisman website, Henry was just the third running back in SEC history (Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson being the others) to have four 200-yard games in a single season.

Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, during the same season, finished with 2019 rushing yards and eight touchdowns along with 645 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He also finished with a combined 1,200 yards off kickoff and punt returns.

As I mentioned in a post yesterday, Snell has an opportunity to shatter records next season such as most career touchdowns in SEC history by a running back, most career touchdowns and yards in school history, and the single-season UK rushing record. There’s a chance that by the time his junior year is over there may be no more records to break as a Wildcat.

Five records Benny Snell Jr. can (and will) break this season

But could it be enough to take the next step up from local star to national superstar?

Career-wise, absolutely. Snell became just the third player in SEC history to have at least 2,424 yards and 31 career rushing touchdowns before his junior season, joining only Georgia’s Herschel Walker and LSU’s Leonard Fournette. He had 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns, both totals that led the SEC last season. On-par with Ingram’s touchdown total in 2009, but still 300 yards fewer than the former Heisman winner.

But Snell isn’t at Alabama, and it’s a near-certainty (begging I’m wrong here) the Cats won’t be competing for a national championship this season. Though it’s entirely possible he could put up comparable numbers as a junior, Snell won’t have the same stage and national attention from the get-go we saw with Ingram. Playing under the bright lights on the big stage sways Heisman voters (see Lamar Jackson losing out to Baker Mayfield this past season).

What Snell does have, however, are marquee SEC games and elite defenses to make an impact in. Kentucky is chosen to play in the 3:30 p.m. primetime games on CBS usually once or twice a year, usually against stud opponents. If Snell can put up monstrous numbers in those with the national analysts and commentators calling the games, it certainly can’t hurt. Help lead Kentucky to victories in those games? Even better.

His ejection in the Music City Bowl turned heads nationally, with Snell actually going viral that night and going into the following day. National analysts realized the significance of Snell’s absence for the Cats and showered him with praise, and it kickstarted a mini Heisman campaign at the time for Kentucky fans. It was lighthearted in nature at the time, but the more praise he received, the more it got people thinking “what if.” It certainly didn’t hurt his status as a darkhorse candidate going into 2018.

As far as numbers go, one thing that can pay off in a major way would be Eddie Gran putting the ball in Snell’s hands both on the ground and through the air. By upping his YPC average ever-so-slightly, Snell’s rushing numbers can spike in a significant way as a junior. Moe Williams’ school-record 1,600 yards was done by averaging 5.4 yards per carry, just 0.3 yards more than Snell’s sophomore campaign. If he can reach 5.6-5.8 YPC with increased touches, he’ll easily reach those record-shattering numbers and gather a surplus of national attention. Surpass that 6.0 average (we saw that from Snell during the Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt games last season), and those Heisman whispers will grow even louder.

He only caught ten balls for 72 yards last season, but we could see from the Blue-White scrimmage and spring practice Eddie Gran is pushing for Snell to catch more balls out of the backfield, and that’s absolutely necessary if he wants a shot at the national awards. He’s mostly known as a grind-it-out back to keep the clock moving forward and inch the offense down the field. With some dump passes out of the backfield, Snell will have some open field to work with for home run opportunities. He’ll need several hundred receiving yards and a few scores through the air.

He can’t afford dud games like we saw during Mississippi State and Northwestern, or even mediocre games like his outings against Southern Miss, Florida, and Eastern Michigan. He’ll have to have a near-perfect season with a major step up from year two to three to have a legitimate shot.

Likely? When you look at the numbers historically, probably not. Possible? Never say never.


Five records Benny Snell Jr. can (and will) break this season

Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. is no stranger to shattering records. He’s the first back in UK football history with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, holds the school record for most career rushing touchdowns with 32, most rushing touchdowns in a season with 19 in 2017, and most points in a season with 116.

To finish his 2017 campaign, Snell became just the third player in SEC history to have at least 2,424 yards and 31 career rushing touchdowns before his junior season, joining Herschel Walker and Leonard Fournette.

But he’s not done yet.

He’s gotten most of the single-season records down, especially in the scoring column. Now, it’s time to finish the job on some of the other big career milestones.

Here are five records Benny Snell can, and will, break by the end of next season.

Total career touchdowns

Snell is already tied for second with Craig Yeast on the all-time touchdown list at Kentucky, and will need just six scores as a junior to break Randall Cobb’s record of 37.

We could see that broken in the first few weeks of the season.

The Kentucky running back had six games of two-plus touchdowns last year, and his workload will only continue to grow throughout his junior (and likely final) season as a Wildcat.

Career
Rank Player TDs Years
1 Randall Cobb 37 2008 2009 2010
2 Craig Yeast 32 1995 1996 1997 1998
Benny Snell Jr. 32 2016 2017

Passing up two of the most dynamic football players in Kentucky football history? Count on it.

Most career touchdowns in SEC history by a RB

Snell rushed for 19 touchdowns last season, pushing his career total to 32 scores.

If he manages 18 touchdowns as a junior this year, Snell will hold the record for most career rushing touchdowns in SEC history by a running back.

Coming in at No. 1, Georgia’s Herschel Walker rushed for 49 touchdowns from 1980-1982, with LSU’s Kevin Faulk not too far behind with 46 scores from 1995-1998. With another ridiculous season out of Snell, as expected, he very well may take over the top spot in conference history in just three years of action.

Wishful thinking, but if Snell stayed at Kentucky for four years, that record would almost certainly be shattered by the time his career ended.

Career rushing record

Sonny Collins holds the record for most career rushing yards at Kentucky with 3,835, with Moe Williams coming in at No. 2 with nearly 500 fewer yards at 3,333.

Snell is already No. 8 on the list with 2,424 career rushing yards, just behind Boom Williams at 2,511 in three years of action.

If Snell can manage 1,412 yards as a junior, he will take over the top spot as the leading rusher in school history, accomplishing the feat in one less year.

If he stays on his 2017 pace of 102.5 yards per game, the junior back can surpass (No.3) Rafael Little’s four-year total of 2,996 yards by Week Six.

Career
Rank Player Yards Years
1 Sonny Collins 3,835 1972 1973 1974 1975
2 Moe Williams 3,333 1993 1994 1995
3 Rafael Little 2,996 2004 2005 2006 2007
4 Mark Higgs 2,892 1984 1985 1986 1987
5 George Adams 2,648 1981 1982 1983 1984
6 Derrick Locke 2,618 2007 2008 2009 2010
7 Boom Williams 2,511 2014 2015 2016
8 Benny Snell Jr. 2,424 2016 2017

Single-season rushing record

Snell is already on the single-season rushing record list twice, including third overall with 1,333 rushing yards during his sophomore campaign.

Moe Williams holds the No. 1 spot with 1,600 yards in his 1995 campaign, with the next-closest being Artose Pinner at 1,414 yards in 2002.

Williams’s record will be incredibly difficult to top, but it’s a feat Snell could top this season. Williams averaged 5.4 yards per carry during his record-breaking season, with Snell coming in at 5.1 YPC last year. That jump is absolutely doable, especially when you consider the few outliers Snell had as a sophomore. The Kentucky back only had seven attempts for 18 yards against Mississippi State and six attempts for 15 yards against Northwestern (ugh) this past year, bringing his average and overall total down a bit. He also struggled to start the season against Southern Miss with just 67 yards and then a two-game skid of under 100 yards against Florida and Eastern Michigan in games four and five.

If he can avoid any complete no-shows and continue to take a step up from last season, Snell will grab the record, likely shattering all other scoring and yardage records in the process.

Single-season
Rank Player Yards Year
1 Moe Williams 1,600 1995
2 Artose Pinner 1,414 2002
3 Benny Snell Jr. 1,333 2017
4 Mark Higgs 1,278 1987
5 Sonny Collins 1,213 1973
6 Boom Williams 1,170 2016
7 Sonny Collins 1,150 1975
8 Benny Snell Jr. 1,091 2016

Single-game touchdown record

Snell is already tied for first with four touchdowns in a game, a feat he accomplished during his freshman season against New Mexico State. It was the game his legacy as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, running back in UK history began.

Like the single-season rushing record, this will be a tough record to top due to such variety of overall workload per game and a little bit of luck. If the Cats can drive down the field and allow Snell to punch it in from just a few yards out with ease like this past year, it’s certainly doable.

He had three games of three touchdowns this past year, with three more games of two scores. He obviously knows how to get in the end zone, but the balls will have to bounce the perfect way – or a superhuman performance, which is certainly possible out of Snell – to break the tie.

Single-game
Rank Player TDs Year Opponent
1 Don Phelps 4 1946 Michigan State
Al Bruno 4 1950 North Dakota
Calvin Bird 4 1958 Hawaii
Rodger Bird 4 1965 Vanderbilt
Sonny Collins 4 1973 Mississippi State
Moe Williams 4 1995 South Carolina
Craig Yeast 4 1997 Indiana
James Whalen 4 1999 Georgia
Artose Pinner 4 2002 Vanderbilt
Benny Snell Jr. 4 2016 New Mexico State

By the time his Kentucky career is over, there is a chance Benny Snell will hold every single rushing record UK has to offer, becoming one of the most dominant athletes this campus has ever seen.