By LARRY VAUGHT
Ronnie Sneed has seen plenty of talented Southeastern Conference running backs during his career as a linebacker at the University of Kentucky. He thinks UKÃ¢â‚¬Ë†freshman Josh Clemons is destined to be one of those SEC star backs, too.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is just a talented player. He is a freshman, but you see that raw talent in him. Sometimes you can tell he is young by the way he does certain things and that he might not have as much coaching as an experienced running back, but you can tell he has the potential to be a very good running back,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Sneed, a senior. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He flat ran over somebody pretty good at LSU. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got talent and is going to be a great player for us. I could see him in the NFL one day.Ã¢â‚¬Â
However, Clemons isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to do any more running for Kentucky this year because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s out for the season with a knee injury. He was the leading rusher for UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anemic offense with 279 yards and two touchdowns on 65 carries. Even with Clemons, a true freshman out of Georgia who has an 87-yard scoring run, the Cats are No. 119 out of 120 FBS teams in total offense with 229 total yards per game, 118th with 13 points per game and 105th in rushing yards with 110 per game.
Phillips said Tuesday that Clemons had a torn meniscus in his knee and had undergone surgery earlier in the day.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“On Saturday (at South Carolina), we recognized that Josh was a little gimpy and he was trying to go,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“On Sunday, he came in for a routine injury report and we got an MRI done yesterday and he had surgery this morning on his knee and is out for the rest of the season.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Phillips said after the game Saturday that Clemons did not return to action in the 54-3 loss because the Cats fell behind and Raymond Sanders, the season-opening starter who missed three games with a knee injury, fit the passing game better. Sanders will get the start against Jacksonville State when UKÃ¢â‚¬Ë†(2-4) returns to action Oct. 22 after an open date.
KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s offense was hit with injuries to its offensive line before the season and also lost highly-touted true freshman receiver Daryl Collins to a season-ending knee injury in August. Receiver Gene McCaskill, the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s No. 2 receiver who missed all of last season with a torn knee ligament, has been in just three games because of back problems.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We feel for Josh but we feel for the other guys, too, because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a special guy to all the players on the team,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to get the other guys better. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had some reps because of RaymondÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s absence, so weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got some experience. In a year you have a ton of injuries, you also gain a ton of experience because of it. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s happened this way with Raymond and now with Josh. Jon Jon (Jonathan George) got to play last week and CoShik (Williams) has been in the game and played a significant role so those guys are going to have to pick it up.Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬Â
Phillips was pleased with the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s performance in what he said was an Ã¢â‚¬Å“upbeat, competitiveÃ¢â‚¬Â practice Tuesday.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The mood is fine,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said despite his teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s four-game losing streak. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We had an upbeat practice with a lot of fundamentals and a lot of competitive work against each other. We worked a lot on our special teams, especially our return game.Ã¢â‚¬Â