Kentucky Wildcats Football Position Preview: RB/FB


Oct 5, 2013; Columbia, SC, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Jojo Kemp (3) rushes past South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker Skai Moore (10) in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY SportsIt’s been pretty rare for Kentucky to have had a surplus of SEC quality players at one position. So rare in fact, that I literally cannot recall any spot on the depth chart ever being as loaded with talent as the running back position is this season.

That’s a statement.

There will be a starter, but expect most of the top five backs to see extensive playing time if all are healthy. Fullback is another story though.

Despite having a standout senior at the position, fullbacks are rarely a big part of any spread-based offense, so the position’s contributions this season are guesses at best.

Braylon Heard (JR) – Heard was considered a HUGE addition when he transferred to Kentucky from Nebraska. A borderline five-star talent in high school, his versatility was lauded and a waiting game began for his redshirt season to conclude last year. After sitting out the 2013 campaign, he was able to make early waves in practice and is the favorite to win the starting job at running back. While Heard’s ability to run the ball is not concerning, he will have to, show he can catch out of the backfield and pick up the blitz as well to maximize his playing time.

Jojo Kemp (SO) – I was accused of having a man-crush on Kemp several times after his commitment to Kentucky as a high school player, and it was not only true then, but it is now as well. Kemp’s ability to make plays and defy physics made him a fan-favorite as a true freshman and he will, undoubtedly see plenty of snaps again this fall. If Kemp can improve catching the ball out of the backfield and in the slot, he may see extended time at receiver where his ability to make plays in space can be featured.

Josh Clemons (SR) – A fan favorite in 2011, Clemons was one of the brightest young stars on the team as a true freshman. He was expected to challenge for a starting job in 2012 and 2013 before both seasons were cuts short due to injuries. Finally healthy again, Clemons reintroduced himself during the spring game and was able to show off a new downhill running style to compliment Heard and Kemp’s evasiveness. Clemons’ new role may very well be that, of a power back in this offense and his experience and leadership will be key in bringing along many of the young backs on the roster.

Mikel Horton (FR) – If there’s one guy, that looks like an NFL back right now, it’s Horton. He’s probably built more like a linebacker than a traditional air-raid running back, but don’t let his size fool you. Horton is shockingly nimble for a 230 pound player and he’s more versatile than any high school running back I can remember. His strengths are actually picking up the blitz and catching the ball our of the backfield, both rare among young players. With so much depth at the position, don’t be surprised to see Horton lined up at running back, fullback, receiver, or even at tight end. The coaches will have to find a way, to get a player as good as Horton on the field.

Boom Williams (FR) – In July of ’13, I actually tweeted that I thought it would be fitting for Boom to rock the #18 jersey at UK due to his many similarities to former UK great Randall Cobb. Surprise, surprise, Williams will be sporting the number this fall. While comparing him to Cobb really isn’t fair, there are some notable similarities. Williams should spend time as a runner and a receiver this fall, and if his ability to catch the ball and break long runs wasn’t oversold, he may actually spend more time catching the ball. Regardless of where he lines up, Boom is a dynamic player that has the type of talent that demands the coaches to give him a chance to be a gamebreaker.

DJ Warren (SR) – Despite being one of the team’s best players as a true freshman and sophomore, the philosophy of Kentucky’s offense doesn’t revolve around the fullback. Warren’s role changed drastically last season and it remains to be seen what his contribution will be this year as well. The staff may elect to use more tight ends or dual halfbacks in two-back sets, or Warren may be on the field regularly considering the uncertainty surrounding the tight ends. We rally just don’t know at this point. Ultimately, Warren is a very good player that will have some type of role on the team even if it is restricted to short yardage/goal line situations and/or special teams.