LEXINGTON — About this time a year ago, Kentucky running back Derrick Locke was predicting that true freshman running back Raymond Sanders was a potential star.
Now that Sanders goes into the 2011 season as the Wildcats’ No. 1 tailback after the graduation of Locke, he also has a prediction about a soon-to-be-star in freshman Josh Clemons, another Georgia running back.
“He is a smart back. He reminds me of me. He comes in and is anxious to learn,” Sanders said. “He is a big, strong guy that is hard to tackle. He reminds me of (Heisman Trophy winner) Mark Ingram (of Alabama), a guy that is just hard to tackle. He is powerful, but he’s also fast. He can do a lot of good things for this team and be productive.”
Sanders knows what impact a freshman back can have after seeing the success Marcus Lattimore had at South Carolina last season.
“He is the type guy that can be a great back in this league. He is a big cat that can flat run,” Sanders said. “He is going to make people’s eyes open with the things he can do. He is just going to be a great guy because he wants to be.
“He is not coming out and feeling sorry for himself when he makes a mistake. Everything he does, it is full speed. He is working hard to be the best and that is one thing that keeps us pushing. As a group, we all come out here and push each other to be the best group out here and make some noise in this league as a group.
“Josh is bigger than me, but with his smarts and ability to understand our offense, he is like me. I came in and made a couple of mistakes, but he understands what is going on, where the line is going,” Sanders said. “He is a natural football player.”
Sanders has known that about Clemons for years.
“We played (youth)¿park ball against each other. He was a great player then. My team always beat him. My team was always the best, but he was a great player back then even,” Sanders said. “We had to make a game plan around (him). He can do great things with the ball.
“Actually, we didn’t make a game plan, but you knew who to watch out for and who the home-run hitters were, and he was that guy even back then and he can be that guy for us, too.”
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips has not commented specifically on true freshmen like Clemons during the preseason. However, he’s indicated he likes the skilled players in this class and that one, possibly Clemons, could be UK’s next Locke or Randall Cobb.
“There will be some guys that will catch your eyes, no question about that, or they wouldn't be in the two-deep (depth chart),”¿Phillips said. “They wouldn't be in the two-deep if we didn't feel like they were eye-catchers, because they definitely caught our eyes. That's the reason why they're in the two-deep.”