A.J. Rose may be one of the most underappreciated Wildcats in recent memory.
Stuck behind Benny Snell and Lynn Bowden’s spotlight the past two seasons, Rose has quietly run for 1,305 yards as a Wildcat and enters his senior season of 2020 with a chance to finish his career top 10 in program history in rushing.
- Position: Running Back
- Class: Redshirt Senior
- Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
- School: Garfield Heights High School
- Recruit Rankings: No. 85 Athlete in 2016
In the Class of 2016, Rose committed to the Wildcats while also holding offers from Indiana, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Purdue and Syracuse in February of 2015. He joined a class that included Snell, Landon Young, Drake Jackson, Kash Daniel, Justin Rigg, Luke Fortner and Boogie Watson that helped change the culture of UK Football. Rose was ranked as a consensus three-star prospect and top-50 player from the state of Ohio.
The running back redshirted as a true freshman in 2016, and in 2017 played seven games, rushing for just 37 yards on 15 attempts.
After two years of patience, Rose had a breakthrough during the 2018 spring game. The then-redshirt sophomore caught the eyes of the Big Blue Nation after rushing for 134 yards and three touchdowns, which helped earn him the job as Snell’s backup.
Rose went on to play in all 13 games for the Cats in 2018 and ran for 479 yards and five touchdowns on 86 attempts, while adding eight catches for 82 yards and a score. Rose ran for a career-long 75-yard touchdown that was also Kentucky’s longest run of the season against Louisville. He also ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the 2018 season opener against Central Michigan in his first game as UK’s No. 2 back.
In 2019, Rose took over as the starting running back of the Cats with Snell in the NFL. The redshirt junior ran for 826 yards and six scores while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He became the 37th player in school history to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a career and had two 100-yard games in an impressive campaign.
75 frames of AJ Rose’s touchdown in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Missouri. @KentuckySports @JoshMooreHL @heraldleader @markcstory @pbaniak @BenRobertsHL @johnclayiv pic.twitter.com/dOYzGVXgji— Alex Slitz (@AlexSlitzPhoto) October 27, 2019
Entering the 2020 offseason, there were rumors that Rose could become a grad transfer and leave for another program that could offer him a more featured role in their offseason. But Rose ultimately decided to stick with Kentucky and finished out his memorable career in Lexington.
Technically, Rose can return for the 2021 season thanks to the NCAA recently ruling that anyone who plays college football this fall will automatically get another season of eligibility. But given that Rose plays a position where the wear and tear factor in quicker than most positions, the smart money is on Rose leaving this offseason to pursue an NFL career.
Rose enters his senior year ranked 28th on Kentucky’s all-time rushing list. But at 1,305 career yards, he ranks just 464 yards behind Marc Logan for 10th in program history.
Four hundred sixty-four yards is more than manageable for Rose, but to reach that mark, he will need to continue to hold off Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez on the depth chart as both at times earned carries ahead of Rose last season.
With Lynn Bowden having departed, there could end up being more rushing attempts for the Kentucky backs this season.
If Rose can hold onto the ball and continue to average five or more yards per carry, he should finish his stellar college career off strong and find himself among Kentucky’s top 10 all-time rushers.