Kentucky is going back to the NFL to hire its next assistant coach. Football Scoop reports on the final day of the 2020 regular season that Jemal Singleton will leave the Cincinnati Bengals to coach running backs at the University of Kentucky. He will become the fifth coach on Mark Stoops’ staff with significant NFL experience.
Although the deal is not yet finalized, let’s get to know the man who will be tasked to fill Eddie Gran’s shoes in Kentucky’s talented running back room.
1. Singleton coached with Brad White
There will be no need for a formal introduction between Singleton and UK’s defensive coordinator. Singleton coached running backs for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 while White worked with Indy’s pass rushers. During his two years in Indianapolis Singleton helped future Hall of Fame Frank Gore rush for just shy of 2,000 yards.
2. SEC Experience
Like new offensive line coach Eric Wolford, Singleton is no stranger to SEC football. Singleton served as the running backs coach for Bret Bielema’s 2015 Arkansas team that finished 8-5 (5-3 SEC) and won the Liberty Bowl. Arkansas was not his only Power Five stop. The first leap he made out of his alma mater’s safety net was onto Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State coaching staff from 2011-14.
3. Air Force Alumnus
Singleton played at the collegiate level, rushing for 941 yards (5.4 ypc.) and four touchdowns from 1996-98 in the Air Force Falcons’ triple option attack. In his first season as halfback Air Force upset No. 8 Notre Dame. As a junior they defeated another Top 25 team on their way to a 10-win season. In Sinlgeton’s senior campaign Air Force won its second straight Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, the WAC title and the Oahu Bowl, finishing the season ranked No. 10 in the Coaches’ Poll with a 12-1 record.
Singleton in college (24) Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)Once the halfback’s playing career concluded, he stuck around the Academy at Colorado Springs for the next decade. One can surmise that his only brief departure from football was to participate in active duty.
4. Good without Mixon
Running back coaches are often evaluated by how their top back performs. In Singleton’s first season with Cincinnati, Joe Mixon was as good as advertised, rushing for more than 1,100 yards for the second consecutive season. A better way to evaluate a coach is by how his players respond once the star is unable to play.
Mixon has been limited by injuries to only six games in 2020. Once Mixon was out of the picture, Singleton helped veteran Giovani Bernard (764 total yards) get a second wind in his lengthy career, while bringing along Samaje Perine (4.6 ypc.). After Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending knee injury, the Bengals had to lean on the running backs even harder. They’ve still averaged more than 100 yards per game on the ground and have won two straight games.
5. In the McVay Coaching Tree
Singleton will be no stranger to the concepts Liam Coen will implement as the University of Kentucky’s offensive coordinator. Before becoming the Cincinnati Bengals head coach, Zac Taylor was Sean McVay’s quarterbacks coach, working on the same staff with Coen. Singleton’s experience in this offense will ensure that everyone is on the same page on day one.
Watch Singleton Operate
Before the pandemic hit, Singleton served as a coach in the Senior Bowl. You can hear him preach vision, details and un-wasted movement in this mic’d up feature from Mobile.
It’s difficult to grade a new assistant coach hire based on resume alone, but Singleton appears to check all of the right boxes. Time will tell how well he fill Eddie Gran’s shoes in UK’s talented running back room. Before Singleton officially takes on the new role in Lexington, this appears to be good hire by Stoops and Coen.