Entering the 2016 season, Kentucky’s talented groups of running backs have received praise from a variety of media outlets, consistently ranked in the top five of the SEC.
It makes sense when you look at individual talent, but on paper, it really doesn’t. In 2015 Kentucky ranked 57th in rushing yards per game, 87th in 2014.
If these running backs are so talented, why haven’t they produced impressive numbers? Simply put, they have not been put in situations to succeed.
Over the last two years, three running backs received the majority of the carries. All three averaged around five yards per carry, putting them near the Top 100 in the nation, yet their carries were never consistent.
Boom averaged more yards per carry than he did carries; Mikel Horton wasn’t far from doing the same. That should drive the point home.
Last year Boom was 14th in the nation in yards per carry and his carries doubled, but off the field issues, injuries and conditioning kept the coaching staff from feeding him. However, if you compare to other elite running backs at the top of the yards per carry list, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook received 100 more carries last year, around 20 per game.
In Boom’s 22-game career, he’s rushed for more than 100 yards 8 times while only getting more than 10 carries in 10 games.
This post isn’t to belabor the point that Boom needs more carries; he is simply the grossest example of the lack of logic in the running back rotation through the last two seasons. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence you can probably remember; maybe JoJo wasn’t getting the ball when he was obviously in the zone, or the powerful Horton wasn’t getting carries near the goal line.
The good news is that Eddie Gran is calling the shots this year. As the running backs coach at Auburn he had two top five NFL Draft picks in the backfield. He kept them happy and made sure they got the ball, rushing for over 2,000 yards combined while each received more than 12 carries per game. Gran probably can’t replicate that kind of success, but he should be able to ensure these backs live up to the preseason hype.
Gran has not said exactly how his rotation will work this season, but you can rest assured that it will not be as puzzling as previous years.