Kentucky Football: Stoops rounds out staff hiring RB/ST coach Jemal Singleton

Jemal Singleton. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jemal Singleton. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Kentucky Football lands more NFL talent to coach running backs and special teams.

Eddie Gran’s departure last month left Kentucky Football not only with a job opening for an offensive coordinator but also leaving a void at running backs coach. On Thursday head coach Mark Stoops rounded out his staff by hiring Cincinnati Bengals running backs coach Jemal Singleton to the same position and adding special teams duties.

Singleton will be the latest talent Stoops has been able to lure away from the NFL joining newly hired offensive coordinator Liam Coen who is coming over from the Los Angeles Rams. Singleton won’t have much of his work cut out for him seeing as Kentucky should be returning a pair of studs in Chris Rodriguez Jr and Kavosiey Smoke.

Stoops spoke about the selection of Singleton.

"He came highly recommended from (UK defensive coordinator) Brad White, who I highly respect, as they worked together in the NFL. After I did the research on him, saw his background, and visited with him, it was a no-brainer. He has also worked in the same system as (new offensive coordinator) Liam Coen and he will be a great fit.”"

A three-year letter winner and four-year running back at the Air Force Academy he was integral in leading the Falcons to back-to-back 10 win seasons for the first time in the school’s history.  Singleton later returned as an assistant coach at Air Force from 2003-2010.

Air Force average 283.5 rushing yards per game, the third-best mark in the nation for 2009, and in 2010, they ranked second in the nation with 306.5 rushing yards per game.

From 2011-2014 he coached the running backs at Oklahoma State. In 2013, Singleton helped guide OSU’s running backs to 35 rushing touchdowns, and in 2014 his running backs combined for more than 500 touches without committing a single turnover.

Singleton spent the 2015 season under head coach Bret Bielema at Arkansas as the special team’s coordinator/running backs coach. He led Alex Collins to career highs in every major rushing category, including rushing yards (1,577) and TDs (20).

His first job in the NFL was in 2016 with the Indianapolis Colts joining current defensive coordinator Brad White. While there he guided Frank Gore to the first 1,000-yard season by a Colts’ rusher in nine years.

Singleton was very excited about the move to Lexington.

"“We are so excited to be a part of the Big Blue Nation. My wife and daughter are horse people and we all know Lexington is a great place for that but I had a chance to come to the NFL Pro Day last year and walk around the facility. I was very impressed with everything Kentucky Football has done for their players. Everything is first class. Coach Stoops has really built something special at Kentucky. I also have history with Coach Brad White from way back at Air Force and also in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, and this is just an amazing opportunity. I can’t wait to get started."

He spent 2018 with the Oakland Raiders before joining the Bengals in 2019.

In his first season in Cincinnati, he coached Bengals second-round draft pick, Joe Mixon, to his second consecutive 1,100-yard rushing campaign as well as Giovani Bernard. With Cincinnati sustaining numerous injuries at the skill positions this season Cincinnati has had to heavily rely on the running game, a running attack that has been very successful with Singletons running backs.

Singleton will join a very accomplished staff of coaches and will bring a wealth of knowledge to Kentucky’s running backs. Any time you can lure away coaches from the professional ranks to the college game, it’s bound to bring a plethora of helpful information to the table for these young kids to soak in. Kentucky’s running game in 2020 could be the best it’s ever been.

Stoops also bestowed on his new coach the special teams coaching duties, a position that was not coached by anyone specific. That void reared its ugly head several times this season with muffed kick returns, poor decisions, and just all-around angst.

Kentucky averaged 18.6 yards per kickoff return for a total of 298 years ranking No. 92 out of 120 teams. The punt return is a little skewed as the Wildcats only returned six all year for 63 yards.

This is a serious and much-needed upgrade and Singleton will need to garner immediate attention from Singleton.