10 things to know about UK running back Kavosiey Smoke
With apologies to Shakespeare, a Kavosiey by any other name … well, it just wouldn’t be the same. But we’ll get to that semi-famous name, and plenty of other things to know about Kentucky’s outstanding sophomore running back. Smoke is 1 of 3 outstanding UK running backs, any or all of whom are threats for big seasons in 2020. Considering Kentucky’s offensive line and stacked backfield, it might be worth getting to know a little more about the man named Kavosiey.
1. What’s in a name?
While, yes, Kavosiey Smoke has a certain ring to it … it may be one that the owner of the name would rather forget. He lists his nickname as “Smoke” and has admitted that instead of his deeply original first name, he would prefer a more “common name.”
“Just say Smoke,” he told the Courier-Journal. “That’s what I tell people — call me Smoke — because I don’t like it when people call my name wrong. That makes me kind of mad. People know my name, but they say it wrong still. I just like to be called Smoke.”
His name is pronounced “kah-VAH-see-ay.”
2. American heritage
One of the unique features of Smoke’s biography is that he has some Native American ancestry. Appropriately, he played in high school at Wetumpka High in Alabama. Wetumpka is taken from a Creek word meaning “rumbling waters.” Which sounds kind of like Courvoisier, but that would be another story.
3. Roundball, too
Maybe Smoke was destined to end up at Kentucky. Not only was he a football star at Wetumpka, but he started for 4 seasons on the basketball team. That said, there aren’t a ton of 5-9 small forwards in the SEC, which might be why Smoke (who was listed at 215) ended up on the gridiron.
4. In the Kentucky tradition, Smoke was shut out by his home-state powers …
It’s hardly surprising that a kid in Alabama grew up dreaming of playing for the Tide or the Tigers. Smoke was the No. 23-ranked recruit in Alabama in the 2018 class. But after Alabama and Auburn passed on offering him a scholarship, he chose UK over North Carolina and Florida Atlantic. Of course, this is pretty standard fare for the Wildcats — who have certainly reaped the benefit of players with a chip on their shoulder about in-state schools that missed out, from Randall Cobb (Tennessee) to Benny Snell and Lynn Bowden (Ohio State).
5. But Smoke was nearly nabbed by South Carolina
That said, Kentucky did get a bit lucky when Smoke played against fellow Alabaman Jake Bentley, who was on his way to start for South Carolina. Bentley’s team won, but he mentioned the outstanding running back on the other team to his dad, Bobby Bentley, who was then an assistant coach for the Gamecocks. Carolina did try to recruit Smoke, but its efforts ended up being too little, too late … fortunately for the Wildcats.
6. Home-run threat
One of the biggest features of Smoke’s game is his big-play ability. He has averaged 6.3 yards per carry at UK, rushing for 616 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Smoke set a school record in 2019, when he became the first player since at least World War II to post touchdown runs of 32 or more yards in each of the Wildcats’ first 2 games.
7. Receiving threat, too?
Smoke is part of UK’s trio of excellent returning backs, with A.J. Rose and Christopher Rodriguez, but he might claim an advantage in the passing game. Granted, UK passed rarely-to-never in 2019, but UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran has repeatedly praised Smoke’s route running and hands … and when called on, as, for instance on a 3rd-and-26 against Vandy, Smoke has shown the ability to deliver.
— UK Sports Network (@UKSportsNetwork) November 17, 2019
8. Biggest of big plays?
It’s no mean feat to claim when sharing a backfield with Lynn Bowden, but Smoke broke the longest run from scrimmage for Kentucky in 2019, when he went 70 yards against Louisville. That one echoed his first big run at UK, a touchdown rush in his redshirt season of 2018 against the Cardinals.
Pass the Kavosiey!!!! pic.twitter.com/ld3y01EbWK
— Mike Spencer Hrynyshyn (@MikeH_Draft) August 8, 2020
9. No. 4 in 2019, but best on 1st down
Smoke finished 4th in the SEC among freshmen in rushing last season (and 17th among all players in the league), trailing only John Rhys Plumlee, Isaiah Spiller and Jerrion Ealy in rushing yards. Also a weird stat quirk — Smoke averages 7.7 yards per carry on 1st down, significantly more than 2nd down (4.1), 3rd down (1.9), or 4th down (3 yards on his only 4th-down carry).
10. A double celebration
Smoke committed to (and signed with) Kentucky on National Signing Day in 2018 — before we had separate Signing Days. It had to be a busy day at the Smoke house (by the way, is he not automatically set up for a potential restaurant name, should he open one some day?) because Signing Day was Feb. 7, and Feb. 8 is Smoke’s birthday.