The speculation for next season is without a doubt abnormal considering for a few months and even now the questions have been related to how the season will be played during a pandemic. But even with the odd times that we are in, normal offseason speculation as to how the teams will perform still exists.
From local speculation to national speculation, one thing analysts have in common is looking at the strength of UK Football’s running game in the past few seasons and for this coming season. After leading all Power Five schools in rushing as a team this past season, the Kentucky running game is aboard the preseason hype train.
Fox’s College Football Twitter account alluded to this hype yesterday, tweeting out a graphic of the top ten rushing teams in the Power Five:
👀 @UKFootball led all Power 5 schools in rushing offense a year ago
Who will be the kings of the ground game this season? pic.twitter.com/lFmgjefqVN
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) June 10, 2020
Now, as said many times in the reply section to this tweet by fans of other teams, the fact that UK had Lynn Bowden Jr. at quarterback and ran almost always helped with the Cats’ efficient running attack, and with the return of Terry Wilson and a deeper QB room the Cats will no doubt throw the ball more often this coming season. With that said, Wilson is a proven option in the run game, and Kentucky returns a praised offensive line with a proven core of running backs.
Cole Cubelic, former Georgia offensive lineman and current SEC Network analyst, named Kentucky his third ranked offensive line in the SEC going into the season:
MY top 5 SEC OL’s for 2020: pic.twitter.com/LnnEGWaJqZ
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 5, 2020
Maybe the most hyped of the offensive linemen that Kentucky will start this coming season is senior center Drake Jackson. Coming into his fourth season of not only starting but thriving at the position, Jackson is getting preseason hype not just in the SEC but nationally.
Cole Cubelic, who already ranked UK’s offensive line as the third best going into the season, has Drake Jackson as the No. 1 center in the SEC:
MY top 5 SEC centers for 2020: pic.twitter.com/bm7PcjCJ7s
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 9, 2020
Also, Pro Football Focus named Drake Jackson the most valuable center going into the 2020-21 season:
The most valuable center returning to college football in 2020:
Kentucky's Drake Jackson pic.twitter.com/mS1Npn4NIJ
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 22, 2020
While rushing for 278.8 yards per game as a team will be unlikely since UK will be running the ball more, it is clear that Kentucky will not be lacking the prestige up front to run the ball. Plus, they return three running backs in AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez who combined for 1,975 rushing yards last season, and QB Terry Wilson who as I mentioned is a valuable option in the running game too.
For years, Kentucky fans wanted an air-raid offense that throws the ball and scores a lot of points, but with the way the Cats have ran the ball in past seasons, and with what they are returning in the trenches and the backfield, running the ball will more than likely be the plan of attack.