Two Kentucky Wildcats are featured in ESPN’s list of the best college football players for 2018.
Outside Linebacker Josh Allen and Running Back Benny Snell came in at #8 and #42 respectively on their list. Neither were listed on ESPN’s preseason top 50 list.
In a year full of star talent, both players are well deserving of their top 50 rankings. Neither came to UK highly recruited and spent most of their careers under appreciated by the national media. Allen and Snell earned the right to not only be listed as some of the best in UK history, but college football history as well.
Here’s what ESPN wrote about each player:
8. JOSH ALLEN
Key stat: 84 tackles and 14 sacks
Unquestionably one of the nation’s best defensive players this season, Allen took home both the Bednarik Award and the Nagurski Trophy. He led the SEC in sacks (14), tackles for loss (18.5), forced five fumbles, broke up four passes and had six tackles for loss. He was the anchor for a good Kentucky defense that was the biggest reason for the Wildcats’ special season.
Josh Allen will finish his career at Kentucky as the school’s leader for single season and career sacks. He’ll likely add more to both records in the Citrus Bowl, since he announced he would play. In Todd McShay’s first mock draft of the season, he projects Josh Allen to go 9th to the Detroit Lions.
42. BENNY SNELL JR.
Key stat: 1,305 rushing yards and 14 TDs
The Wildcats’ best offensive player and one of the key pieces to their stellar season, Snell was second in the SEC in rushing (1,305 yards, 14 touchdowns). He ran for more than 100 yards six times and was a workhorse, averaging 21.9 carries per game, the highest such average in the conference.
After a preseason of debate whether Snell or Damien Harris would finish the season with better stats, Snell will nearly double Harris in both rush yards and touchdowns. While Snell did not finish the season as hot as he started, it was not because a lack of talent or effort. Kentucky faced tougher opponents using essentially a one dimensional offense, which teams were able to key off on.
Regardless, he’ll still go down as the best running back in UK history. In only three years, he already has 20 more career rushing touchdowns than the next closest on the list, Sonny Collins. Snell needs 106 yards in their bowl game to topple Sonny Collins career rush yards record as well. Snell is currently projected as a 2nd or 3rd round pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
If the Citrus Bowl is indeed the last game for both players, hopefully their college careers end with the trophy coming home to Lexington.