Benny Snell exited UK as the most accomplished UK running back in history, in my opinion. Most touchdowns in UK history. Offensive leader of three bowl teams and a 10-win team. He will head into the NFL as a Pittsburgh Steeler and as one of the most loved UK players in history. His name will be on the Ring of Honor sooner than later, and deservedly so. And I am here to tell you something that is an unquestioned in my intern brain:
*JOSH ALLEN WILL BE A SIGNIFICANTLY BIGGER LOSS IN 2019 THAN BENNY SNELL
Now, follow me for a second. I am certainly not calling Benny Snell a minor loss. He’s a huge loss. But I am saying it is far easier to replace a quality running back than it is to replace an elite edge rusher. And my bigger point is an elite edge rusher has a far greater impact on the game than an elite running back does. Let me rationalize it like this:
-Josh Allen is able to get around the offensive tackle and get to the quarterback and then tackle the quarterback. A guy can either do that or not. And the ability to do that is rare. Benny Snell was able to get 4 yards consistently. And while not an easy task, it is far more common to do what he could do than Allen. And there are many ways to do it. You can run over guys. You can run around guys. You can do it with speed or power. And you do it with the help of your offensive line. Benny Snell’s greatest gift, in my opinion, was his durability. Josh Allen was able to do what he did out of pure athletic ability.
-Let’s consider Allen’s sacks. A sack on 1st down completely changes the outlook of a team’s drive. Facing 2nd and long might be a hill too steep to climb for most offenses. Meaning even if Allen only affected the play on 1st down, he actually was the cause of that drive going 3 and out. That doesn’t even take into consideration the blocking schemes that team’s made to protect against Allen that helped other players make easier plays. And then there are the obvious sacks on 3rd down that literally ended drives.
-Now, if you don’t agree with me you will certainly say how many times Snell extended drives on 3rd and short getting tough yards. And I don’t disagree. He was a machine in those situations. But wasn’t Boom also able to do similar things when he was here? Do we think that AJ Rose, with proper blocking, couldn’t get those first downs too? Who knows but I am far more confident there was nobody on UK’s roster that could get to the QB like Allen because they simply are not talented enough.
I think we are going to find this season that UK’s stable of running backs will be able to accomplish some/most of what Benny Snell was able to do in 2018. With a strong offensive line, I think converting 3rd and short will still be a strong point of the UK offense. What makes me the most nervous, and will be evident against two weaker opponents to start the season, will be can UK’s edge rushers affect the game at even 50% of what Josh Allen did. Because Allen was a once in a generation talent at Kentucky. In a sport played 11 vs. 11, he was able to dramatically affect the game solo.
To have two game changers like Josh Allen and Benny Snell may never happen again in UK history. But replacing those guys is not an apples to apples discussion in my opinion. Snell can be replaced by a committee of running backs. Josh Allen is far more unlikely to be replaced. And it makes me nervous what impact that will have for the 2019 UK defense.