Williams looks to lead running backs



By Josh Ellis

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Now less than 60 days before the lights flick on over the newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium and the Cats face Louisiana-Lafayette, we continue forward in our position preview series.

After examining who will be taking snaps for the UK offense come August, we will now take a look at who that quarterback will be handing the ball to this season.

Stanley “Boom” Williams, who is now a household name to UK football fans, will likely be the starting running back for the Cats in 2015. Williams will take over the starting role after Braylon Heard left UK with one year of eligibility left to pursue a career in the NFL.

Despite not being the No. 1 back for the majority of last season, Williams led the team in rushing yards, racking up 486 total yards on the ground and averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

Though he only scored five rushing touchdowns in 2014, Williams’ flashes of greatness last season earned him a spot on the 2015 pre-season Paul Hornung Award Watch List.

Williams was named to the Sporting News All-True Freshman team in 2014 and averaged 26.9 yards per kickoff return.

The sophomore is arguably Kentucky’s best skill player and has potential to provide the UK offense the spark it needs to keep defenses off balance. Even in offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson’s new air raid offense, expect Williams to bolster his stats from last season.

Jojo Kemp, who also displayed signs of eminence last year, is expected to better his production in 2015 as well.

Kemp rushed for a total of 323 yards last season, while scoring four rushing touchdowns and averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

While Williams is a speed back who will get pitches off the edge and go out for bubble screens, Kemp is more of a power back for the Cats, whose bigger frame will allow him to receive the majority of his carries running between the tackles.

Williams and Kemp both carried the ball 70 or more times last year and should be on pace to have a slight increase in carries, but a substantial increase in productivity.

The third running back who will split time with Williams and Kemp in the upcoming season is sophomore Mikel Horton.

The West Chester, Ohio native was the only running back to play in all 12 games for Kentucky in 2014, but carried the ball just 59 times.

Horton, who’s the biggest of the three backs at 6-foot-1 and 234-pounds, will play a mixture of the speed and power back roles this year. He is big enough to make tackling him a hassle and elusive enough to break a 40-yard run.

Horton averaged 5.2 yards per carry and ran for 306 yards and two touchdowns in his first year at UK. Now entering his second year, it wouldn’t be so far-fetched to see Horton have a breakout 100-yard game.

Incoming freshman Sihiem King will also likely be called upon to play this season. King, who flew under the radar for much of his recruitment, committed to UK the night before national signing day in February. King has a smaller frame as he is listed at 5-foot-9, 172 pounds, but looks to be an explosive athlete in Dawson’s offense.

All four backs will play a vital role in UK’s offensive success in 2015, and will look to surpass their 153.2 rushing average per game this year.

Williams, Kemp, Horton and King will contribute to their portion of the team’s success, and will keep the running back position a beam of light for the future of the UK offense.