It’s no secret redshirt sophomore AJ Rose put on a show in Kentucky’s 2018 Spring Game on Friday night. He finished the day with three touchdowns and 134 yards on just 11 carries, with ridiculous elusiveness, cuts, and yards after contact.
It was the moment we’ve all been waiting for out of the 6-foot-2 back out of Cleveland, Ohio, who has shown signs of immense potential but has never been able to put it together on a consistent basis.
“The last two scrimmages, tonight included, I really felt like he took a big step,” head coach Mark Stoops said of Rose. “It was really important for him to come out tonight and back that up, which he did, and that’s really good to see. A.J., as I mentioned, I have a lot of confidence in his ability and what he’s been doing. He’s been working hard, and Coach Gran has been working with him, and it was good to see him have a good night.”
For Stoops, it was the breakout moment the coaching staff knew was coming.
“It’s just — you never know when somebody is going to put it all together,” he said. “You know, that’s okay. You love to see guys getting better and developing over time. Some guys walk in — very few of them are ready to compete at a high level. Sometimes it’s out of necessity that you’ve got to play some young guys, but you never know when it’s going to all come together for him.
Finally, Stoops says, Rose is playing winning football.
“He’s been doing — he’s been showing flashes for a long time, but to put it all together and play winning football all the time, he’s been doing that this spring,” he said.
Star running back Benny Snell said having Rose nipping at his heels helps keep him honest.
“It helps me a lot. I always have to stay on my toes and grow, to make myself a better runner. Us as roommates, we’re able to correct each other every day. It’s a good thing,” said Snell.
A lightbulb came on early in Snell’s freshman season, where everything came easier as a runner from there on out. When that same lightbulb comes on for Rose – and Snell says it’s just about there – those two can be one of the most dynamic rushing duos in the SEC.
“It’ll hit you fast. Everything will hit you so fast, and you just have to know how to take it. You’ve got to be level-headed and stay getting better. We’ll wear defenses out. I can drive, drive, drive and get them tired. AJ can come in and run them down. He’s got speed, we’ll beat them around the corner. I’ll get the short yards. I’ve got a lot of excitement. I feel like we’re going to be deadly all around,” said Snell.
Rose said he’s not ready to take Snell’s starting job by any stretch, but he’s going to do whatever it takes to get there sooner rather than later.
“Nah… I’m working to get there, though. I want it,” said Rose. “Everybody wants the No. 1 spot. It just felt good to be out there playing, get consecutive reps, not just coming in and out. It just felt good to play football. I’m in there, I’m watching film, I’m trying to better myself.”
Check out more of Snell’s comments on Rose below:
Siheim King sat out with a head injury, and AJ Rose certainly made the most of his opportunity in his absence.