Part two in an eight part series previewing the 2013 football Cats.
Senior Tailback Raymond Sanders
No position on the Kentucky roster is a better reflection of the state of the overall Kentucky football program in Mark Stoops’ first year as head coach than the running back position. Like the squad as a whole, the running back position boasts quality players, but not nearly the quantity necessary to ensure immediate success on the field. And like the Kentucky program as a whole, the running back corps will soon receive an infusion of talent like nothing seen before in the Commonwealth. But before the 2014 blue chippers make their much-anticipated arrival in Lexington next season, a thin group of veteran backs will battle for the opportunity to be featured this fall in Neal Brown’s explosive attack.
Raymond Sanders 5-8, 187 Sr., Stone Mountain, GA
Sanders has suited up for 29 games in his Kentucky career, starting 7. Despite frequently battling through injury, Sanders has accumulated 1,078 career rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. Also a skilled receiver, Sanders has caught 39 passes for an additional 238 yards and a touchdown.
Jonathan George 5-10, 209 Sr., Lincoln, AL
Though never considered Kentucky’s featured back, George has been a contributor throughout his Wildcat career, having appeared in 34 games with 7 starts. He has rushed for 737 yards and 6 touchdowns entering his senior season.
Dyshawn Mobley 5-11, 209 So., Powell, TN
Mobley appeared in all 12 games of his true freshman season in 2012. As Kentucky’s biggest back, Mobley powered his way to 184 yards on 41 carries, averaging a solid 4.5 yards per rush.
Jojo Kemp 5-11, 185 Fr., DeLand, FLA
This speedy and versatile freshman compiled 2,632 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons of Florida high school competition. One of Mark Stoop’s early recruiting coups, he chose Kentucky over offers from Tennessee, Mississippi State, Nebraska, West Virginia and others.
D.J. Warren 6-0, 226 Jr., Alcoa, TN
When the Cats employ a fullback in 2013, which might not be often, it will be Warren, who has logged 24 games of experience at the position. Almost exclusively a blocker, Warren has carried the ball just three times in his career, though he did score a touchdown against UT in 2012.
At the conclusion of spring drills, tailback looked to be one of the very few positions of genuine depth on the Kentucky roster. Unfortunately, summers can be cruel to Kentucky football fortunes. Just this month, the Cats lost veteran Josh Clemons to a season-ending Achilles tear, and true freshman Khalid Thomas to a dismissal for violation of team rules. This unfortunate attrition leaves the Cats with just four scholarship tailbacks to navigate a daunting 2013 schedule.
Those fans who understandably averted their eyes from the dismal 2012 season as it stretched brutally into November likely didn’t notice that veterans George and Sanders actually had solid seasons running the football for an otherwise inept offensive unit. The two combined for 1,173 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns, and both averaged around 5 yards per carry. No player may benefit more from the return of the Air Raid offense than Sanders, whose dual-threat ability is tailor made for Neal Brown’s up-tempo attack. For those fans old enough to remember the heyday of the Hal Mumme era, think Anthony White. White’s skills were squandered in Bill Curry’s 3 yards (okay, maybe 2.5 yards) and a cloud of dust offense, but thrived under Mumme, with his ability to run and catch. (White caught an amazing 193 balls in his 3 seasons under Mumme.) Sanders could experience a similar rebirth in the new edition of the Air Raid.
George and Mobley may not fit the offensive system to the degree that Sanders does, but both are hard-running and dependable backs. To truly shine in the offense, both will have to prove that they can catch the ball out of the backfield. Jojo Kemp will undoubtedly see time as a true freshman. As evidenced by his impressive offer sheet, Kemp’s explosive ability is too great to keep him at the bottom of the depth chart for long.
When 2014 arrives, Kentucky will add three 4-star backs to its current stable. In Mikel Horton, Stanley “Boom” Williams and Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard, Kentucky will enjoy an embarrassment of riches in the backfield in the future. With less depth and fewer press clippings, the 2013 Kentucky backs will have one season to prove that they can provide the all-important ground support for the Air Raid.