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Benny Snell Jr.: The most underrated back in the SEC

There are some good running backs in the SEC that many people have heard of. This year those players are Nick Chubb, Sonny Michel, Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough, Kamryn Pettway, Trayveon Williams and Ralph Webb. One name you may not have heard of yet, or haven’t come to respect enough, but will by season’s end is Benny Snell Jr.

2016 season

Benny Snell Jr.: The most underrated back in the SEC
Boom Williams and Benny Snell Jr. (photo by kentucky.com)

Coming into the Kentucky program Snell was a three star recruit out of Westerville, Ohio. Snell looked to be behind a lot of talented running backs including, Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp. He did not get a carry in the first two games of the season for Kentucky. In the game against New Mexico State, he got his first chance to play and ran away with it.

Snell finished that first game with 136 yards on 17 carries. He recorded his first rushing touchdown of his career to go along with three others on the day. From that point on he continually got carries all season. He split snaps with Williams and made a good compliment to Willaims’ speed with his power running style.

The season ended up being good for Snell as the lowest average yards per carry he had in a game was 4.6, which happened against Louisville and Alabama. That is still a respectable average. The highlight in SEC play for Snell came in a four game stretch against Vanderbilt, Missouri, Mississippi State and Georgia, when he rushed for 528 yards and five touchdowns. Kentucky plays all of these teams again in 2017, giving him an opportunity to build on that.

He finished the 2016 season with 1,091 rushing yards on 5.9 yards per carry. Had he not been splitting carries, he could have rushed for over 1,500 yards easily. While he didn’t get a lot of national recognition, Big Blue Nation was and is excited to see his progression in the coming years.

Offseason

Benny Snell Jr.: The most underrated back in the SEC
Benny Snell in his first game. (Photo by lex18.com)

Williams left early for the NFL draft, which means that the dynamic duo of 2016 will no longer be in effect. The good news for Snell is that he will now be the featured back in the Kentucky offense and will likely have more carries, yardage and touchdowns.

Unfortunately starting tackle Cole Mosier tore his ACL in practice before this season could start. Mosier was a good offensive tackle that Snell tweeted, “…is one of the best tackles I’ve ever ran behind.” This is a huge loss in for the Wildcats, but they did do a rare thing last season and rotated offensive linemen. With so many having played, and played well, Kentucky will still be above average on the offensive line at the very least.

Snell has shown his confidence this offseason by burning preseason rankings that had Kentucky ranked too low for his taste and taking all of the rankings of best running backs in the SEC with a grain of salt. He has already walked the walk for one season and there is no reason to believe he won’t do so again in 2017.

2017 season

Benny Snell Jr.: the most underrated back in the SEC
Benny Snell (Photo by courier-journal)

This season Snell will be the lead back and the go-to-guy on the Kentucky offense. Snell will get more touches and will capitalize on it. The Wildcats only play one team this season that was elite against the rush last season: Louisville. Snell averaged 4.6 yards a carry against the Cardinals in 2016 in an upset win for the Wildcats. Kentucky plays their fair share of lousy rush defenses this season and with the offensive line and Snell, they should be able to capitalize it.

Snell will have a successful season, but so will the Wildcats. Last year they started the season off slowly, but finished the season well at 7-6. The expectations are higher this year with Mark Stoops being in his fifth full season as head coach. If he can get the most out of this team they are fully capable of wining eight to 10 games this season.

If the Wildcats make some noise this season, it will in no doubt be partially thanks to the talent of Benny Snell. By the end of the college football season, fans are going to know his name.

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