UK adds former Wake RB at 11th hour

Published 1:17 pm Thursday, August 17, 2023

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Kentucky Today

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops has added depth to the backfield with the addition of Wake Forest transfer Jaquez Keyes.

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Keyes will be a walk-on this season after playing two ways as a linebacker and running back in high school. Keyes is from Ironton, Ohio.

Stoops and his offensive staff will be looking to replace running back Chris Rodriguez who carried a bulk of the load in the backfield last season. Vanderbilt transfer Ray Davis brings experience to the running back corps, but following the first scrimmage of the fall last Saturday, Stoops isn’t sure who will be leading the charge when the Wildcats open the season against Ball State on Sept. 2 at Kroger Field.

“There weren’t many explosive runs,” Stoops said. “But we’re definitely trying to get that mentality back. Being able to run the ball when everybody knows you’re going to run it. That’s going to set up our play action.”

As of now, Stoops said the team’s backfield features versatility.

“They all got a bunch of reps,” Stoops said. “Ray (Davis) was in there quite a bit, he’s played a lot of snaps. So, we were able to get some other guys in there. It’s going to be by committee, and we have some guys with some versatility.”

Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary has been impressed with the team’s backfield through the first two weeks of fall workouts. JuTahn McClain, Lavelle Wright and Ramon Jefferson join Davis in the backfield.

“ A guy like JuTahn (McClain) has a ton of snaps under his belt, being able to play in coach (Liam) Coen’s offense in ’21. La’Vell (Wright) did really good things today. He keeps getting better, more of a power back. Even seeing guys like Ramon Jefferson, battling through some injuries and now he looks as good as new, which is really cool to see.

“Then you’ve got Demi Sumo (Karngbaye) coming in, kind of bringing that versatile attack in the passing game. I think it’s cool to see how they all collaborate with each other and make each other better. They definitely each have their own aspects of the game that are going to help us.”

Karngbaye also played at North Carolina State alongside Leary in the backfield.

“Just seeing him take the game in a serious approach, not only at N.C. State, being able to play as a redshirt freshman, but transferring in and doing everything he can to help this offense,” Leary said. “Being out there on the field, it makes me realize how much I appreciate the work he has put into his game as well.”