Kentucky football: don’t sleep on Rodriguez being the best all-around NCAA player

Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Kentucky football is used to not garnering a ton of accolades and respect, but Christopher Rodriguez Jr. just might change that by being the best all-around NCAA football player in 2021.

The Wildcat junior was named to the initial 80 player watch list for the Maxwell Award, which is presented to the most outstanding player in college football.  This prestigious award can go to a player at any position.

As coach Mark Stoops says Why Not KentuckyWell why not Chris Rodriguez Jr.?

C-Rod as he is known has watched, learned, and clearly showed last season he is not only a threat in the Southeastern Conference but nationwide.

Rodriguez, Kentucky bidding to be the best this season – why not?

After redshirting his freshman year the 5-foot-11 back from McDonough, Georgia watched as his predecessor Benny Snell Jr. ran through defenses with a chip on his shoulder. Rodriguez seemed to take that same path to the heart and has been tearing through defenders as well.

Coincidentally the last Kentucky player to make the award’s watch list was Benny Snell Jr., who was one of 20 semifinalists for the award in 2018.

It will be interesting to see just how much Rodriquez is brought up in Day 2 of the SEC Media Days, but don’t sleep on him running wild through a schedule that has Kentucky playing seven of its games at home and in the spotlight of some mighty conference competition.

So why should he be a threat to put up big numbers and lead Kentucky to challenge for second place in the SEC East?

Kentucky has always been known to grind it out on the ground, but that has also led to one-dimensional offenses that also saw its backs take a beating.

That looks to change this season with the arrival of new offensive coordinator Liam Coen who will open things up passing downfield and to his tight ends freeing up Rodriguez to pound his way through the defense.

Growing up he pretended to be Marshawn Lynch and at times you can see Rodriguez mirroring that bulldozer mentality of just running over guys despite his small stature. Laugh you say in comparison, but fact check Lynch is also 5-foot-11 215 pounds, and let’s see 1st Team All-American in 2006 at California and went on to be a 5 time NFL pro-bowler and Super Bowl champion rushing for over 10,000 yards.

Can Rodriguez mirror that, can he vault to the NFL and follow Snell? Should he be getting more respect?

Why not?

The hard-nosed running back led Kentucky in rushing with 785 yards and 11 touchdowns on 119 carries in 2020, and that was despite missing two games due to Covid protocol. More than likely he would have been a 1,000-yard rusher in a season in which the Wildcats only played SEC opponents.

He led the SEC in yards per attempt at 6.6 (17th nationally) and was fifth in the conference in rushing yards per game at 87. Had four 100-yard rushing games.

The season highlight was when he rushed 14 times for 139 yards and a career-high three touchdowns in the win over South Carolina. That included his 79-yard touchdown run that clinched the game in the fourth quarter and marked his career-long run and the fifth-longest run in school history against an SEC opponent. He also finished with 151 all-purpose yards in that game.

If he breaks through the defensive front the jets come on and it’s off to the endzone. Rodriguez became just the second player in school history, the other Mark Higgs, to have two runs of at least 74 yards in the same season. That was a 74-yard run vs. Vanderbilt.

After the season he was named an All-SEC First Team selection by Pro Football Focus and an All-SEC Fourth Team selection by Phil Steele.

Watch out NCAA because C-Rod is ready to make you take notice this season.

Next. Kentucky takes the stage in SEC Media Days. dark