It is hard to believe it is less than a month until the 2017 season kicks off. That means it is time to take an in-depth look at Mark Stoops‘ fifth squad in Lexington. Over the next couple of weeks we will be breaking down each position. Today it is the Kentucky Wildcats Position Preview Quarterbacks and Running Backs.
Number One Quarterback Going Into Camp
Kentucky returns eight starters from their 7-6 squad who went to the school’s first bowl game since the 2010 season. None is more important than quarterback Stephen Johnson. When Drew Barker went down with an injury three games into 2016, Johnson stepped in and let the Cats to seven wins in their last ten regular season games.
Johnson threw for 2,037 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago. In addition he ran for 357 yards and three more touchdowns. If Johnson has a knock it is his ability to hold onto the ball. A season ago he lost six of the 16 fumbles by the Wildcats. Only three other schools had more fumbles, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Utah. To make matters worse four of the six fumbles were returned for touchdowns.
His ability to hold onto the ball and improvement in the passing game will go a long way in determining the fate of the offense. In fact at media day Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said “Johnson won’t be playing this year if he hasn’t gotten the fumbling problem fixed.”
At SEC Media Days Stoops cemented Johnson as the starter when the season kicks off on September 2nd.
NEW: Mark Stoops addresses quarterbacks and newcomers at start of SEC Media Days. https://t.co/fIhIwblM5O
While Johnson is the starter the battle for his backup will be an interesting one.
After missing most of 2016 and spring practice with a back injury, Barker is now 100 percent and says he is ready to go. In addition to Barker, Gunnar Hoak is the main competition for the back up spot. Hoak was the star of the Blue-White spring game and their battle is one of the interesting things to watch as fall camp begins.
Behind those two are Luke Wright who started against Austin Peay last season and true freshmen Danny Clark. Clark raised a lot of eyebrows after decommitting from Ohio State last fall and quickly pledging for Kentucky. He will most likely redshirt in the upcoming season. For more information on Clark check out the link below.
Benny Without Boom
Up next in the Kentucky Wildcat Position Preview is the running backs. In 2016 the Wildcats rushed for 3,094 yards second most in school history. Most of that success came from the tandem of Boom Williams and Benny Snell. Williams declared for the NFL after last season ending the “Boom and Benny Show” and leaving Snell as the man for Coach Stoops. In addition Kentucky will have to replace goal line specialist JoJo Kemp and his six touchdowns to graduation.
Snell made the SEC all-freshmen team after rushing for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how Snell responds to being the man for the Wildcat offense. True Blue Fans are hoping there will be no sophomore slump. The reason is behind him the situation is a little unclear.
Going into the fall two players are fighting for the back-up role, Sihiem King and A.J. Rose. Right now King holds the advantage over Rose on the depth chart. In limited action last season the junior ran 11 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. During the spring game King ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns. As a redshirt freshman Rose is hoping for the same kind of success as Snell a season ago.
There is one player coming in this fall for the Cats who has the entire Big Blue Nation excited. That is Lynn Bowden, the number four rated athlete in the nation by 247 Sports. The Youngstown, Ohio native has been compared to former Cat and current Green Bay Packer Randall Cobb. He has the potential to be the best player to come to Lexington since Cobb nearly a decade ago. https://www.seccountry.com/kentucky/kentucky-football-expectations-lynn-bowden-comparisons
At Sunday’s Media Day the coaching staff threw the Big Blue Nation into a slight panic when they announced Bowden was not yet on campus. However he is expected in Lexington later this week. Coach Stoops said it was due to “academic eligibility and that he had not yet been approved by the NCAA clearinghouse.” Gran has tried to temper fans expectations. However once Bowden learns the system he is expected to make an immediate impact.
During Cobb’s years at Kentucky they ran a lot of the “Wildcat” formation and fans can expect much the same with Bowden. Seeing him take snaps at quarterback, running back and even wide receiver will be the norm this fall.
In addition to Bowden the Cats got more great news recently. True freshman running back Bryant Koback is fully healthy and ready to go for fall camp. The only running back signed by the Cats in the 2017 class broke his leg last fall and missed all of spring practice. The Ohio native is another player who can give valuable depth if needed.
A healthy Bryant Koback could give Kentucky the depth it needs at RB. https://t.co/rcEjVbVusf
Thanks for checking out this first Kentucky Wildcats Position Preview here at Last Word on College Football. Next time a look at the receivers and tight ends.