Guest post: Are this year’s running backs the best ever at Kentucky?

JoJo Kemp (Vicky Graff Photo)

JoJo Kemp (Vicky Graff Photo)


In thinking about the upcoming football game Saturday night with Mississippi State I believe one of the critical factors in determining the winner \will be which team can effectively run the ball.

In its two wins over SEC foes South Carolina and Vanderbilt, UK moved the ball effectively on the ground and controlled the clock for most of the second half. Watching Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp and Benny Snell, Jr. run the ball made me wonder how well those three players stack up with other groups of running backs at UK from past decades. Let’s take a look.

Starting back in the mid 1960s UK had a trio of running backs named Roger Bird, Larry Seiple and Mike McGraw. They averaged 4.3, 3.7 and 3.5 yards per carry over their careers.

In the mid 1970s UK had all-time leading rusher and one of the best running backs to ever wear the blue and white in Sonny Collins. Along with Collins in the backfield were Steve Campassi and Doug Kotar. They averaged 4.9, 4.3 and 4.0 yards per carry respectively.

During the decade of the 1980s UK had an exceptional group of running backs named Mark Higgs, Mark Logan and Ivy Joe Hunter. That group averaged 5.4, 4.5 and 4.7 yards per carry over their careers.

In the 1990s UK had another very good stable of running backs in Anthony White, Derek Homer and Artose Pinner. They ran for 4.8, 4.8 and 4.8 yards per carry respectively. During that decade UK also had second all-time leading rusher Moe Williams along with Damon Hood and Ray McLaurin. That group averaged 5.4, 4.1 and 3.7 yards per carry respectively.

Last but not least in the new millennium decade of the 2000s Raphael Little, Derek Locke and Tony Dixon were rushing for 5.2, 5.1 and 4.0 yards per carry over their careers.

Compare that to the group that we have today. Jojo Kemp is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, Benny Snell, Jr is currently at 5.6 yards per carry and Boom Williams is averaging a whopping 6.9 yards per carry. Benny Snell’s numbers are only over one year but the other two have performed at that level over the course of multiple seasons.

In looking at the numbers does that make this year’s trio of running backs the best group to ever carry the football for U.K. in the modern era?

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  1. You left out George Adams, a No. 1 draft pick in 1985. What difference does it make, really, if the team can’t produce a winning season.

  2. The game was very different in the 1970’s. Few teams relied on the pass so defenses put more players in the box trying to stop the run. That alone would skew the results of any comparison between eras. If you stretch the defense with passing that makes running more productive. By way of comparison just consider this. UK has more passing yards this season than they did in 1973, the best season for Sonny Collins. And the team is just half way through the season. Not only that but there were zero cupcakes on that 1973 schedule. We can’t say that about the 2016 schedule.

    In short, I’ve seen today’s running backs and I’ve seen Sonny Collins. Collins was better.

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