Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez to return for Oct. 1 game at Ole Miss

Brett Dawson
Louisville Courier Journal

LEXINGTON — Running back Chris Rodriguez will return to the Kentucky football team for the Wildcats’ next SEC game. 

Rodriguez, who has been absent for UK’s first two games — wins against Miami (Ohio) and at Florida — will be able to play at Ole Miss on Oct. 1, the school announced Monday. No. 9 Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 SEC) hosts Youngstown State on Saturday and Northern Illinois on Sept. 24.

“I just found out 10 minutes ago, literally,” UK coach Mark Stoops said at his weekly news conference.  

Stoops again declined to clarify the reason for Rodriguez’s absence and said he would not comment on a Sports Illustrated report that Rodriguez was sitting out while the NCAA investigated the eligibility of multiple UK players.

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Prior to the Wildcats' season opener, Stoops said he expected "a few (players) to have multiple-game suspensions,” but he did not confirm that any individual players had been suspended.

Asked Monday if he could clarify who determined the length of Rodriguez's absence, Stoops said: "I really don’t want to comment on that. It is what it is." He has said the timetable for Rodriguez's return was not entirely in his hands, saying last month "I have bosses and they have bosses and so on."

Kentucky's running game has missed Rodriguez, who ranks sixth on the school's career rushing yards list (2,740) after running for 1,379 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. 

Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. warms up during the Kentucky Football Fan Day open practice on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, at Joe Craft Football Training Center in Lexington, Kentucky.

The Wildcats have carried 120 times for 204 yards through two games, an average of 1.9 yards per carry. Rodriguez has averaged 6.6 yards per carry in 32 career games. UK had some success on the ground in the second half against Florida, rushing for 107 yards after halftime.

"We’ve been prepared to handle this situation for weeks now," Stoops said. "We’ve been getting the other guys ready, continuing to progress but also keep (Rodriguez) in shape, get him reps when we can. Chris is wonderful because he’s competing on scout team. He goes down there and gets his reps down there. He’s willing to do scout-team special teams. He’s doing whatever he can to stay in shape, get those movements down with the run game and continue to take reps with the first- and second-team offense when he can. He’s staying active and getting ready to go."

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UK players win SEC honors

Kentucky wide receiver Dane Key on Monday was named SEC Freshman of the Week, and linebacker Jordan Wright the league's Co-Defensive Player of the Week.

Key made a spectacular leaping catch of a 55-yard pass from quarterback Will Levis for the Wildcats' first touchdown of the game.

Wright intercepted a pass late in the second quarter that set up UK's second TD, giving the offense a first-and-goal at the Florida 6-yard line. He also had six tackles — two for loss, including a sack — and a forced fumble.

Reach Louisville men’s basketball reporter Brett Dawson and bdawson@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @BDawsonWrites.