The addition of Liam Coen to Mark Stoops’ staff has the Big Blue Nation buzzing this offseason. After years of poor passing, fans can once again dream of big plays through the air to Wan’Dale Robinson, Josh Ali and a group of talented tight ends. In all of the new scheme hysteria, arguably the offense’s best player is getting lost in the shuffle, Chris Rodriguez Jr.
Slept on by many nationally after never carrying the ball more than 20 times in a game in 2020, C-Rod still led the SEC in yards per carry with 6.6 (min. 50 carries). He did not get tackled behind the line of scrimmage until the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. A one-man wrecking crew, Pro Football Focus named him a Second Team All-American. Now the outlet believes he is one of the ten best running backs returning to college football in 2020, coming in at No. 8.
Rodriguez finished as the second-highest-graded running back of the 2020 season (92.4) and ranked second to UNC’s Javonte Williams among Power Five backs in percentage of runs that picked up a first down or touchdown (41%). When it came to those inside-zone runs that Kentucky loves so much, Rodriguez jumped to first in rushing grade nationwide.
In Coen’s new scheme Rodriguez will be tasked to run inside and outside-zone, diversifying his portfolio. The new offensive coordinator said “it’s our job” to get Rodriguez at least 25 touches per game, whether that’s on the ground or through the air. The Cats’ next bell-cow back, he’s destined for a breakout season in 2021.