LEXINGTON — Freshman Josh Clemons was one of the prize recruits in Kentucky’s 2011 recruiting class — and he’s played that way.
In two games, he’s rushed for 165 yards on 25 carries, an average of 6.6 per try. He’s scored twice — a 14-yard run against Western Kentucky and a UK¿freshman record 87-yard run against Central Michigan that was the fourth-longest rushing touchdown play in Kentucky history.
“You hear the buzz around a facility in the summer of how he works in the weight room. This is really the first year (strength) coach (Rock) Oliver and his staff have timed our guys. We don't like to time them as we get close to training camp in fear of pulling muscles and those things, being out. Coach Oliver timed them as soon as they got here,” Kentucky¿coach Joker Phillips said Monday. “He ran a pretty good time. We didn't know he was as fast as he looked on the day, but he did run a pretty good time, got the work ethic in the weight room.
“Then we just started getting him reps in training camp. He was the back that showed up every day. Didn't miss a day. So he's really durable. Really understood our offense. Then when we went into our first scrimmage, some of the cuts he made, his vision, his balance, those things. His ability to secure the football. Those are the things that told us that we thought he could be a pretty good back for us.”
Clemons was named co-Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday after his 126-yard effort against Central Michigan. Here’s what he had to say about his play Monday:
Question: How does it feel to get an SEC honor only two weeks into your college football career?
Clemons: “It feels great. I just found out about it today. It’s a big honor. There are a lot of good running backs in the SEC.”
Question: Does it surprise you?
Clemons: “Kind of. I didn’t really know they even gave out awards and stuff like that, so it is real surprising.”
Question: What was your first reaction to winning the award?
Clemons: “I was actually happy. I¿know I¿have a lot of stuff to build on and there is room to grow and I¿might get a couple more.”
Question: Are you surprised by the quick success you have had?
Clemons: “Not really. Once you work hard at practice and get the schemes down, it is kind of easy to perform out there on game day just doing what you have been taught.”
Question: Are you strong enough to endure a season at this level?
Clemons: “I think we worked really hard this offseason on strength and conditioning and pushing ourselves against each other. I am not too surprised by the strength level.”
Question: Did the Kentucky coaches tell you that you would play immediately here?
Clemons: “No. They just said the job is open for anybody that goes out there and takes it and if I¿learned the offense I¿probably would get to play. If not, I would sit down and learn from everybody else. I thought it was going to take a lot of time with how the playbook is in college and the blocking schemes. I just tried to jump on it as hard as I could.”