A.J. Rose excited to get back on the field for Kentucky

By LARRY VAUGHT

At this time a year ago, A.J. Rose thought Kentucky had a freshman running back who could make a major impact on the UK offense.

He was right. It just wasn’t him.

Instead, it was another freshman from Ohio, Benny Snell Jr., that ran for 1,091 yards and 13 scores while Rose was redshirted. Now as UK gets set to open the season Sept. 2at Southern Mississippi, Rose figures to be Snell’s primary backup.

“Last year it was a major struggle for him. Coming out of high school as a star athlete and then transitioning to next level, there are 10 of you there,” said Asim Rose, the UK redshirt freshman’s father. “Now you have to compete. At the high school level, nobody could compete with you. Now he’s where there is a level playing field.

“I told him high school was over and he had to rebuild his brand. Once he figured that out, then he had to understand that playbook. There is a difference thinking you know and coaches throwing you out there and you are lost. You can either hurt yourself or hurt a teammate.

“Coaches are not throwing you out there no matter how good you are if you do not know what you are doing. It was tough to get him to understand redshirting was a great thing for him. Me and his mom had to stay in his ear all year. But he eventually came home and told us, ‘Thank God I redshirted. I am not the same person. I know the playbook. I’m ready.’”

A.J. Rose now is one of those players that finds extra time to study film. That has made him more confident and allowed him to have more fun versus last season that was often frustrating when he could not play on game day.

During Rose’s high school senior season, the starting quarterback broke his leg in three places in game two. The coach asked A.J. Rose to play quarterback, something he had never done. He was naturally skeptical.

His father had played quarterback and told his son it would be “great” for him to make the move and become a true triple threat player.

“If the pass is not there, you have the option to run the ball. The ball will be in your hands all the time I told him,” Asim Rose said. “The rest of the season was pretty much like a wildcat thing going on here at Kentucky. It just fit him and he can throw the ball if he needs to.”

Rose threw for 616 yards and 10 scores while running 94 times for 770 yards and 12 scores his senior season. Rose, along with true freshman Lynn Bowden, could give UK the passing threat out of the wildcat this season it didn’t have with Benny Snell, Boom Williams or Jojo Kemp last year.

Ohio State and other big-time schools tried to get involved with Rose’s recruitment late after he had committed to UK. His father was not about to let anyone else “jump on the bandwagon” after the commitment to Kentucky over Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota at the time.

“I had to explain to him from being a previous athlete myself that once you commit, there ain’t no de-committing. That’s what you are going to do. Once he had his official visit and more communication with coach (Vince) Marrow, it was done.

“Coach Marrow is a major reason for A.J. being at Kentucky He was like a father figure away from home. Once he built those relationships with the coaching staff it was a no-brainer for him to be at Kentucky.”

Asim Rose says he can “guarantee” UK fans are going to like the speed and more they see from his son.

“He is elusive. He can read things like angles real good. He’s a great blocker. They will see the type player that I ain’t seen often. A.J. is big and is running like a 4.4 (second 40-yard dash),” Asim Rose said.

“He is strong and he don’t mind running through you or running around you. He will be something to see. Him and Benny are not afraid of contact. He (A.J.) loves being physical. Some backs stray away from it. They run out of bounds. He will run you over to get the extra 2-3 yards just like Benny will. They are going to be something special together.”