Image courtesy of UK Athletics
The calendar shows four weeks until kickoff of the 2017 college football season. Every new season comes with predictions, expectations, familiar stars, and fresh faces looking to perform under those Saturday lights. New playmakers will arrive around the country this fall, and UK redshirt freshman running back Asim “A.J.” Rose plans to be one of them.
Following the departure of Jojo Kemp and Boom Williams, two key players in the Wildcat offense in recent years, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran will need a playmaker to emerge in the backfield. Benny Snell, who set six UK freshman records on his way to being named a Freshman All-American, will need a partner to help carry the Wildcat rushing attack. A.J. Rose is qualified to be that partner in the backfield.
Rose, a 6-1, 200lb running back from Cleveland, OH., came to Kentucky as a member of the 2016 recruiting class, along with sophomore running back Benny Snell Jr. Rose has a build that can withstand and deliver blows throughout a brutal SEC schedule. The Wildcats will need him to do just that this season because you cannot lean on one guy in the SEC.
Rose was born in Raleigh, NC., but moved to Cleveland, OH., where he attended Garfield Heights High School. The redshirt freshman was rated a 3-star and the No. 34 ATH in Ohio by 247Sports.
The freshman’s versatility is the tool that makes him such a special talent. During the 2014 season, Rose stepped in at quarterback for injured teammate Jameel Miller. Rose was under center seven games that season where he threw for 616 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding 770 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. The solid season resulted in him being named First-Team Northeast Ohio Conference All-Lake Division.
Rose will bring that versatility to UK’s offensive scheme and you best believe Eddie Gran will find ways to get his dynamic playmaker the ball. When asked to describe Rose, coaches have praised his downhill running style and his refusal to go down in the open field.
Last season, Rose was forced to redshirt due to an established backfield led by Jojo Kemp and Boom Williams. Benny Snell entered as the third guy and Rose was forced to sit and watch, however, he was crucial to last season’s turnaround.
Fans may not know this, but Rose deserves a ton of credit for preparing the Wildcat defense to face the likes of Nick Chubb, Alvin Kamara, and Lamar Jackson last season. He impersonated all three as a member of the Wildcat scout team and even took on the role of option quarterback prior to the TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Georgia Tech.
For any player who was a standout at the high school level, frustration should be expected by a limited role early on, however, Rose treated his spot on the scout team as an opportunity to get better while showing he belongs on the field. The hard work and time put in will result in an opportunity to shine this fall.
Rose will put aside his role of impersonator and willingly allow someone else to fill those shoes. Instead of doing the impersonating, Rose will now be a guy opposing teams will be preparing to stop. Good luck with that, the UK freshman is determined to show he belongs amongst the best.