When it was announced that Kentucky had hired Neal Brown to bring the fan favorite Air Raid offense back to Lexington, it was expected that fans would get excited by the Wildcats’ offense. Without many weapons on offense, they would need to look to the future as well. What nobody expected was for running back to be the position that ended up being stacked with talent. Seniors Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George were probably the team’s best offensive players the previous year and Kentucky added electric freshman JoJo Kemp on Signing Day. Sophomore Dy’Shawn Mobley is a bruising power back. Kentucky added transfers Braylon Heard (Nebraska) and Demetrius Davis(Pitt). Then add the fact that the staff currently has two four-star running backs committed for the 2014 class in Boom Williams and Mikel Horton. That list makes running back easily the most talented position on the offense and there is one more name that most have forgotten.
Josh Clemons was on the verge of stardom as a true freshman two years ago before injuring his knee and missing the rest of the season. He displayed a great blend of speed and power, claiming the starting job from Sanders in the process. After surgery to repair the injury, the knee didn’t respond last year and the coaching staff chose to redshirt Clemons.
A healthy Clemons made strides in the spring and drew praise from the coaching staff, he would have very likely been a significant contributor to the 2013 team. Maybe even a starter. But before the season even began there was more tough news for the young man. After two years of rehab and a promising spring, he had torn his Achilles tendon and would miss yet another year.
So now we will have to wait and see what kind of player comes back for the 2014 season. Based on most Achilles-injury recoveries, Clemons should miss spring practice but could be back for fall camp and the regular season. He isn’t the prototypical scat back that Neal Brown’s offense generally makes use of and lower leg injuries almost always sap some speed from an athlete. Nor is he a bruising goal-line back that should punch in a lot of short-yardage scores. What Clemons provides, if he can regain his form, is balance. Of the six other backs that will potentially be on Kentucky’s roster, they are all power backs or all-purpose backs. So there is some value for a guy who can a little of everything.
It will be interesting to see how the rotation plays out. Seven talented backs is probably more than the Cats can hold onto. Kemp has shown that he will be a contributor going forward. Heard has reportedly been electric in practice. Davis could end up at receiver, as could Williams according to recruiting analysts. He and Horton expect to play sooner rather than later though. Mobley is a guy who could tire of being recruited over or potentially change positions, he was a pretty good linebacker in high school. And then there is Clemons, whom I will be rooting for, if only because I love an underdog story. How great would it be if the guy that everyone loved and then forgot became the X factor for Kentucky’s offense?