Chris Rodriguez Jr. set to return Oct. 1 versus Ole Miss


Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) celebrates scoring a touchdown during the UK vs Iowa VRBO Citrus Bowl football game on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Drew Johnson, Staff Writer

No. 9 Kentucky football is getting a significant re-addition on Oct. 1, with starting running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. being eligible to play for the first time after his four-game suspension to start the season.

The senior running back was arrested on May 8 for driving under the influence, going on to plead guilty to the charges on July 5 and having his license suspended for 4-6 months as well as earning a 200-dollar fine.

The DUI led to just a single-game suspension with the team, though this was not always clear.

While head coach Mark Stoops commented that Rodriguez Jr was “working hard and training with the team to be ready,” it came out that the veteran would serve a multi-game suspension for a separate issue other than the DUI.

While no official statement has ever come out regarding that second wrongdoing, it ended up bringing a punishment worth three-times that of the initial arrest.

That said, the light is visible at the end of the tunnel for UK fans with the announcement that Rodriguez Jr. will make his return on Oct. 1, in time for Kentucky’s second road matchup of the season against current No. 20 Ole Miss.

With that matchup currently projected to be between ranked opponents, with Kentucky ranked higher than it’s ever been in the Stoops era, the moment could hardly be larger for Rodriguez Jr.’s return.

The return of the Georgia native is a substantial boost for the Wildcats with Rodriguez Jr. having accumulated 1,379 rushing yards in the 2021 season, an average of 106.1 yards per game, which was good enough to see him 12th in the country and second in the SEC.

He is currently sixth all-time in rushing yards at Kentucky and boasts the school record for most 100-yard rushing games in one season with nine.

As for Kentucky’s run game without Rodriguez Jr., the performances could hardly be described as complete.

Collectively, the Wildcats are averaging 1.9 yards per carry in the 2022 campaign, an

uncharacteristic trait for the same school that has recently featured the likes of Benny Snell Jr. and Lynn Bowden Jr.

Rodriguez Jr.’s return could open, not only the running game, but also boast an already powerful passing game, as the play action can continue to be a threat to opposing defenses from both the ground and the air.

In his time away from the field the Wildcats have started out the season 2-0, including a massive win over then No. 12 Florida, but despite the victory, Kentucky’s backs could only muster 70 rushing yards, entering the halftime break with negative-37 rushing yards.

As Kentucky continues its 2022 season with its next two games against Youngstown State and Northern Illinois rounding out Rodriguez Jr.’s suspension, eyes immediately turned towards that matchup against Ole Miss as one Kentucky may not be able to squeak by unscathed without the veteran back.

With him confirmed to be back for the matchup though, the Wildcats just have to survive is next two non-conference opponents before they can reach what they hope to be their full potential, minus currently injured athletes, for what is expected to be their second ranked conference matchup of the season.