Not a lot has gone right for UK Football since the 2008 campaign concluded. Wins have been few and laurels have been lacking. Though there are many blemishes, one stat continues to irk and annoy me with each passing fall.
Since Barack Obama has resided in the White House, UK has not produced a 1,000 yard back. The last Wildcat to break the 1K plateau was the electric and versatile Rafael Little in 2007. Derrick Locke, like his stature, came up a just little short in 2009 and 2010.
So I am sure it is not a huge spoiler that no other SEC foe has such of a drought of failing to have a runner eclipse 1,000 yards in a season. Ole Miss is the only other school with a streak longer than five seasons.
I’m sure you are now saying something along these lines to yourself, “Okay. Big Whoop. We know we suck. No new information, Clark. I just love your eternal optimism.”
Well here’s the point, gang: I am no soothsayer, but I am willing to bet my entire reputation on Stanley “Boom” Williams will be the first 1,000 yard back in eight seasons for Big Blue.
Since arriving in Lexington, Gran has made it no secret that he wants Kentucky to be more “balanced”. Looking past the coach speak, I truly anticipate that translates to, “We are going to run the ball more. A lot.” Most pro-style teams do after all (Think ‘Bama and LSU).
With a young QB transitioning not only into a new system but also a new style of play, still unproven pass catchers, and an experienced and battle-tested offensive line, there are plenty of glaring reasons why UK will ground it out more; but really, Boom is the biggest. He is the only person on this roster with “home run” speed and a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Sure, Jojo Kemp and Mikel Horton will get their carries, but I fully expect Boom to be “the guy” for his junior campaign and receive the bulk of the workload.
Despite injuries, a new play caller, and missing one game due to suspension, Boom was only 145 yards short of the Thousand Yard Threshold in 2015. Plus, Head Coach Mark Stoops, has been implementing runners-by-committee the last three seasons and no back has gotten over 35% of the team’s carries. UK-Departee Patrick Towles in 2014 was the closest to that mark running a stupid 146 times for 33% of the team’s carries, which was the highest percentage share since Locke’s tenure. Boom ran 121/419 (29%) of UK’s attempts on the ground last year. Besides South Carolina, the Wildcats were the only ones in the conference to have their leading rusher total less than 30% of the team’s rushing attempts.
Furthermore, 2015 marked the least amount of rush attempts by a team in the Stoops Era totaling only 419, good for second worst for a UK squad over the past decade. Only Missouri had less rushes in 2015 with 397. Excluding UK, the SEC’s leading rushers averaged 233/505 of their team’s rushing attempts for a 45% share on 4.8/carry.
Like his new boss, Offensive Coordinator Eddie Gran has been leaning on a running back-by-committee approach the last three seasons; he too did not produce a 1,000 yard rusher, but consistently saw improvement from his guys. From 2012-2105, Gran’s main backs improved in rushing, yards per attempt, and touchdowns without jeopardizing total production. Unlike the Cats, Gran is coming off one of his more efficient years as an OC where his three main backs averaged 752 yards 7 TDs on 131 carries. Over the past three seasons, the Gran’s Bearcats ran about 60 more run plays than UK.
So let’s do a little prognosticative math! Let’s be a little conservative in our expectations (we are talking UK Football after all). Let’s say Gran equals his worst rushing attempt total at his time at Cincinnati with 454, Boom’s carry share increases to 37% (Locke’s 2009 carry share when there wasn’t a “committee”) and his yard/attempt take a slight decrease to 6. *Due to injury history and a bigger target on his back, I find it highly improbable he will replicate his previous per carry averages of 6.6 and 7.1.
.37 X 454 = a, attempts estimated
a X 6= t, total rushing yards
Boom will rush about 1,008 yards following this formula.
Of course, injuries can resurface, UK could find itself down 21-0 early and often, or Drew Barker could find his rhythm and allow the Cats to air it out more. But I find it highly likely the Cats will have their newest member of the 1,000 Yard Club after this season.
Despite wearing an elbow brace that was only rivaled by Barry Bonds, Boom totaled 292 yards the last nine quarters in which he played closing out 2015 in strong fashion before his injury. If he never went down and continued the slash and gash opposing defenses, UK might have never relinquished their three TD lead over archival Louisville and could’ve propelled the Cats to their first bowl birth since 2010. With seven extra quarters of action, there is no question in my mind he would broken the 1K plateau.
Being omitted from preseason All-SEC and NFL Prospect lists will surely light a fire in him to come out and have a remarkable junior year. That plus receiving the bulk of the carries, playing behind a line led by one of the best centers in college football in Jon Toth, and a more emphasized approach on running the ball, Stanley “Boom” Williams will rush for 1,000 yards this season.