Benny Snell Jr. is the latest Kentucky football standout who has become one of SEC’s glamour boys.
After a record-setting performance last year in leading UK to a 7-6 Music City Bowl campaign last season, you’ll find the junior running back from Westerville, Ohio, appearing on regional covers for all three 2018 college football yearbooks in Athlon Sports, Lindy’s Sports and Street & Smith’s this summer. The popular yearbooks, loaded with colorful stories and photos, have just been released and they are available at newsstands or online.
Snell, who currently ranks No. 8 on the UK career rushing list (2,424 yards), has also been named the preseason first team All-SEC running back by all three publications. He is only the third player in SEC history to gain at least 2,424 yards and at least 31 career rushing TDs before entering his junior year, joining Herschel Walker of Georgia and Leonard Fornette of LSU.
The other preseason first team All-SEC performers from Kentucky are senior linebacker Josh Allen -- who is also named second team All-American by two yearbooks -- and senior defensive back Mike Edwards. Other Wildcats receiving second team or third team All-SEC preseason honors include senior tight end C.J. Conrad., sophomore all-purpose back Lynn Bowden, senior offensive lineman Bunchy Stallings and senior defensive back Derrick Baity.
As for the SEC East Division race, Lindy’s and Athlon like UK at No. 5, ahead of No. 6 Tennessee and No. 7 Vanderbilt, but Street & Smith’s drops Kentucky to No. 6 while placing Tennessee at No. 4 and Missouri at No. 5.
By the way, both Lindy’s and Athlon feature a Top 130 poll, ranking all of the teams in NCAA Division I (Football Bowl Subdivision) with the Wildcats at No. 45 by Lindy’s and No. 55 by Athlon. Based on the ratings, it would assume a 4-7 record for Kentucky against the FBS teams this fall. With a probable victory over Murray State, which is in Football Championship Subdivision, it would give UK a 5-7 overall mark for the season.
But one yearbook points out coach Mark Stoops’ Wildcats are in a good place, but moving past 4-4 in the conference race would be difficult. As you'll recall, Kentucky finished at 4-4 in SEC last season, defeating South Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
How will the Wildcats fare this fall? I’ll have my annual UK game-by-game prediction in late August.
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Besides the college football yearbooks, there are plenty of newly-published sports books that you’ll enjoy reading this summer. Some of the new books featured here are:
--“Tony Perez: From Cuba to Cooperstown” by John Erardi (Orange Frazer, $24) is an interesting story about the baseball hall of famer who played for the Cincinnati Reds. The author covered the Reds, including Perez, for four decades.
--“The Big 50: Cincinnati Reds” by Chad Dotson and Chris Garber (Triumph Books, $16.95) has a little bit of everything about the Reds history, ranging from the first pro baseball game to Todd Frazier’s 2015 Home Run Derby. The 368-page paperback has colorful graphics and it’s filled with the team’s interesting players and special moments over the years. By the way, there is a similar paperback about another team, the St. Louis Cardinals. "The Big 50: St. Louis Cardinals" is written by St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Benjamin Hochman.
--“Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond” by Johnson with Erik Sherman (Triumph Books, $26.95) is filled with fascinating stories and reflections on his life, including his days with the Cincinnati Reds when he was the manager during the early 1990s. By the way, he was the one who replaced Tony Perez at Cincinnati.
--"Try Not To Suck: The Exceptional, Extraordinary Baseball Life of Joe Maddon” by Bill Chastain and Jesse Rogers (Triumph Books, $25.95) explores the current Chicago Cubs manager’s life and career. Maddon, who once managed the Tampa Bay Rays, is one of more exciting personalities that you'll find in major league baseball today.
--“Warren Spahn: A Biography of the Legendary Lefty” by Lew Freedman (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.99) tells the story of the winningest left-handed pitcher in baseball history who was also a war hero, serving in World War II. Interestingly, the hall of famer pitched two no-hitters for the old Milwaukee Braves when he was 39 and 40 years old.
--“Tiger Woods” by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian (Simon & Schuster, $30) is a remarkable and revealing biography about one of the greatest golfers in the world. The 491-page hardcover, which is filled with juicy details, discusses the rise, fall and return of Woods’ life and career. The authors has offered a complete human portrait of Woods, who is a very private person.
--“We Changed the Game” by Robin Miller, Bob Netolicky and Richard Tinkham (Hilton Publishing, $24.95) is an early history of the Indiana Pacers, which arguably was considered the most successful ABA franchise. Loaded with pictures, the hardcover provides fascinating stories as told through the eyes of Netolicky, a former Pacers standout, and other key figures from the Pacers.
--“Here Comes the A-Train!” by Artis Gilmore with Mark Bruner and Reid Griffith Fontaine (Acclaim Press, $21.95) is a story about Gilmore’s ABA/NBA career. As you probably know, the 7-2 hall of famer played with the old Kentucky Colonels and sparked them to the 1975 ABA championship. He discusses his life lessons that took him from his rural Florida background to his pro career. The book also contains many unpublished photos as well.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor and founder of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.