After first game of season, Rose is ready to bloom

Before Sept. 1, the name A.J. Rose was likely only familiar to those UK football fans who had studied the week’s depth chart or seen Rose burst out for more than 100 yards in the relaxed 2018 spring game in April.

After that Saturday game against Central Michigan, which saw Rose join All-SEC back Benny Snell Jr. as a second 100-yard rusher for the first time at UK since 2016, UK fans needed an answer to the question: Just who is A.J. Rose?

Rose, a 6-foot-1, 208-pound running back from Cleveland, Ohio, joined the UK program in 2016. He redshirted his first year, which he said was frustrating, but it helped him mature. His biggest goal from then to now was getting the coaches to trust him enough to play in a game.

For those who have been following the Kernel sports desk for over a year, the staff wrote their annual predictions piece before last football season, when Rose was brought up for the first time. The Eagle Scout was my personal pick for breakout player of the year, but that didn’t pan out how I had hoped. He suffered a minor ankle injury in fall camp and got a few rushes in throughout the year, but never ran farther than a few yards. He totaled 37 yards on the season, definitely far from the “breakout” year I had predicted. Rose, though, was undeterred.

As he prepared for his redshirt sophomore season, buzz about Rose continued to grow. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said that he “trusts them both completely,” talking about backup running backs Rose and Sihiem King. King was very involved in the offense last year, running behind Snell.

During a pre-season media availability, Rose said he completely expected to play against Central Michigan. It was a stark change of pace from his previous season that only saw him carry the ball 17 times, mostly in the last few possessions of blowout losses.

What Rose couldn’t tell media then was that on his first touch of the game, he was going to take the ball 55 yards on an outside run to the left side of the field to give UK its first touchdown of the game.

Rose said he had dreamed about the moment he ran into the end zone the night before, and his roommate Snell said that the moment was “a long time coming.”

“We on it now,” Snell said after the 35-20 victory over the Chippewas. “We woke them up… this was our plan before the season, it’s just all coming into play now. I’ve been talking to him, I’ve been correcting him, all his mistakes, and he’s been correcting me.”

Now, in one game, Rose seems to have thrust himself from a fringe, low-snap-count back to a part of the three-headed rushing monster Kentucky hopes to have next season.

The only thing I want to know now is if my breakout prediction still counts.