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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s brightest offensive performer early last season was freshman running back Josh Clemons — and then he tore his meniscus in game six at South Carolina and had the knee injury end his season.
He was leading the team with 279 yards rushing and both of his touchdowns were game-winning plays, a 14-yard run against Western Kentucky and 87-yarder against Central Michigan. That 87-yard run was the longest by a UK player since 1979.
Clemons established himself as a legitimate threat when he ran for 69 yards against LSU, which used its defense to reach the national title game.
“(Trainer) Jim (Madeleno) thinks he will be ready for training camp. He will be one of those guys that goes two days, off a day, then goes two more days, then off,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said during the Southeastern Conference Media Days. “We are just hoping that everything that goes well for him because he is such a good kid and such a good player for us. He is one of the leaders of this football team and we need him on the field for us.”
If Clemons is not 100 percent early in the season, Phillips says the coaching staff might have to at least consider redshirting him rather than having him available for only part of the year.
“That is in the back of our mind that we will have to consider if he is not ready, but we and Jim think he will have a chance to be ready for us,” Phillips said.
One reason Phillips might even be able to consider a redshirt for Clemons if he’s not ready early is the depth the Cats have at running back.
Junior Raymond Sanders is healthy and has rushed for 409 yards. Senior CoShik Williams led the team with 486 yards and three scores last season after injuries to Clemons and Sanders gave him a chance to play.
“We have four running backs (Clemons, Raymond Sanders, CoShik Williams, Jonathan George) who have already played and are bringing in two quality backs (Dyshawn Mobley, Justin Taylor),” Phillips said. “Now we are going to have two 220-pound running backs (Mobley, Taylor) in the program.
“This is a grown man’s league. If you have 185-, 190-pound backs, it takes five or six of them to get through a season. Now we have bigger backs. That gives us a chance to have guys who can play every down. Dyshawn Mobley dead lifted 630 pounds three times. That is pretty dang good for a freshman coming in who has not been in the program but for a few weeks.
“Again, the quarterback position and the running back position I think will be the two positions that will have the most competition. Mobley and Taylor add quality depth to a position that already has some experience.”