A couple of weekends ago I wrote about how I thought this season’s rushing attack would be as good or better than last season, even with the loss of Benny Snell to the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, I primarily focused on expecting to have one of the best offensive lines in the country and how good I thought A.J. Rose was going to be. After two weeks, my hypothesis has been correct, but with one glaring difference. Instead of Rose, it has been redshirt freshman Kavosiey Smoke who has led the Wildcats in rushing so far this season. Smoke is averaging a ridiculous 9.4 yards per carry for 172 yards and 2 scores.
With the loss of Terry Wilson for the season, continuing to get production from multiple running backs will be crucial to sustained success. Before leaving the game last night, Terry had rushed 67 yards and two touchdowns to begin the season. Last year, he scored four times while collecting 547 rushing yards. That is real production that has to be accounted for. A.J. Rose has been solid in both games, but has yet to really show his big play capability with only one rush in 33 attempts going over 20 yards.
Also, Rose coughed one up inside the five yard line last night that cost Kentucky some points. I still think that Rose will be the leading rusher when the season is done, but having the “hot hand” is important in the rushing game so I would expect to see Kavosiey get closer to 15-20 touches when Florida comes to town. Next weekend would be a great time to see Rose really step up and break off a big run to the house against the Gators.
I also wrote earlier about how the season-ending injury to Wilson makes Lynn Bowden the bonafide star of the team, and Hayden Hooper had a feature piece on Smoke this evening as well. Everyone is going to spend a lot of time talking about what other individuals on the team need to do to help cover for the absence of our QB1. It’s obvious Kentucky will need the running back corps, along with Bowden, to continue to produce at a high level. However, Sawyer Smith is a capable quarterback who actually can make some plays with his feet as well.
Coming out of high school, Smith was the No. 33 rated dual-threat QB in the country, according to 247 Sports. In his junior and senior years of high school, he rushed for over 1000 total yards and scored 20 rushing touchdowns. At Troy, Sawyer saw action in six games as a true freshman and collected 73 yards on 19 attempts, including a long run of 41 yards and a 7-yard TD rush.
In his redshirt sophomore season last year, he rushed for nearly 200 yards on 74 attempts; he broke off a 63-yarder against Georgia State and a 57-yard scamper in Troy’s upset win over Nebraska. So, while his background isn’t against SEC defenses, Kentucky’s new starter is definitely capable of creating plays himself as well. It will take a team effort to account for the lost rushing threat of Terry Touchdown, but between what is developing into a great 1-2 punch in the backfield, some more “Wild Lynn” and Sawyer Smith’s own rushing threat, the Cats have reason to continue to be optimistic.