Live chat with running backs coach Ron Caragher took place Tuesday, April 6, 2004 at 12 p.m.
Kristen : How has Bwenge progressed since last season, what role do you anticpate for him this fall?
Ron Caragher : Alexis has gotten much stronger in his off-season weight conditioning. I see him being a more powerful runner with the football. Like last year, we also see him as being a versatile back in that he can play fullback, tailback and single back.
WildcatGeorge : Who is the best RB that you've ever coached? What made him the best?
Ron Caragher : The best running back I've been around is DeShaun Foster. DeShaun was blessed with a great combination of power, speed and had good size as well.
Luc Savoie : Hello Coach, I saw 3 games last year and without any doubt in my spirit that the #25 Alexis Bwenge is your better Running back. He's big, physical and possesses good hands. In a system to one ball carrier, will it be your confidence man ? To two carriers, does it have a length in advance as full back ? Good luck for your next season. Thank you Luc Savoie Running back coach Laval university Canada
Ron Caragher : I see Alexis as continuing to play an important role in our offense. His versatility gives us a great weapon in the backfield in that he can run, block and receive out of the backfield. It's nice to see that his former coach is keeping up with his college career!
Liz : Will Andrew Hopewell get to see some time at the running back position this fall?
Ron Caragher : Andrew so far has shown to be a tremendous special teams player. As far as his role at the running back position is concerned, that will be determined as to what happens the remaining spring and fall practices.
Bruce : Is Draak Davis set for a break-out year? What expectations do you have for him.
Ron Caragher : Draak brings big playmaking ability to our backfield. His experience from last year and a first spring practice under his belt will help him as he heads into his second season. He has improved his 40-yard dash time in the offseason, his strength has improved, and he has a better understanding of where running plays are designed to hit.
Bill Nanna : Who do you expect to be the top running back coming out of Spring practice?
Ron Caragher : It's really too early to say. Our three most experienced backs - Arliss Beach, Alexis Bwenge and Draak Davis - have all been having a very good spring so far. Hopefully all will continue to do so and we'll go into the fall with three experienced tailbacks who can play significant roles.
Frank Pruitt : I've seen some remarks concerning the increase in size and strenght of both A. Beach and A. Bwenge. How have they improved physically from last season. Is Alexis slotted for fullback only or could he possibly see action at TB as well? Thanks Coach.
Ron Caragher : Both Alexis and Arliss have increased both strength and size this offseason. Alexis weighed in at close to 230 pounds and Arliss is now getting close to 220. I believe that both size and strength play a big role in the power that a running back has in breaking tackles and getting extra yards after contact. Alexis, as mentioned previously, can play multiple positions in our backfield.
David Mullins : Coach Caragher do you think wiil be improved from last year?
Ron Caragher : Yes. I think we will be an improved offense this year. All the running backs are returning with experience, improved strength and conditioning. The offense as a whole has a better grasp of what we're trying to accomplish.
DAVID : From the practices that have taken place so far, what is the area of the running backs that has pleased you so far and what area(s) need improvement?
Ron Caragher : What's pleased me the most is the players' understanding of their alignment, assignment, and overall knowledge of our scheme. There are several areas that I will always continue to emphasize - ball security, pad level in both blocking and running the football, and continual effort in blocking assignments.
Mitchell Castle : Coach, with the incoming freshman class not slated to be on campus until the fall do you feel the rb's from this class will be able to catch up with the one's who already know the system? Thanks!
Ron Caragher : That's always a challenge that a coach thinks about. Can a young freshman learn the offensive system in three weeks time to be able to play in the first game. Usually, freshmen start out learning a portion of the offense and as the season progresses, continually learn more and more. Hopefully, if they are truly the best at the position, the learning curve is short.
Aaron : Coach, What kind of impact do you think Rafael Little can have next year?
Ron Caragher : Rafael is a talented athlete. We are excited about him joining our program. Like all freshmen, the key to his playing time will be decided by how quickly he learns our system.
Matt from Ashland : How is Arliss' knee? I know he injured it last year, but continued to play. Did he have surgery, or has it healed on its own?
Ron Caragher : He had arthroscopic surgery during the season and bounced back three weeks later and had his best rushing game of the season on his return against Vanderbilt, when he rushed for 109 yards. So far this spring, his knee looks fine.
Susan : Coach, what is the hardest adjustment for you living in Kentucky after being in California for so long?
Ron Caragher : I cannot find any waves nearby to ride my surfboard! While I do miss the warm weather, my family and I are finding Kentucky to be a great place to live and Kentuckians to be very hospitable and friendly.
Steve Ramsey : Why does this staff not approach special teams (blocking punts) as a weapon? Virginia Tech has shown for more than a decade that it can be done, even when they did not have great talent they still blocked Punt after Punt! We need to go after the punter!!!
Ron Caragher : I believe our staff does approach special teams as a weapon. Last season we blocked two punts, including one for a touchdown. In addition, Derek Abney led the SEC in kickoff returns and tied the NCAA record for total kick return TDs.
Mike : Has coaching WRs in the past given you a different perspective or any unique insight for coaching RBs? What was it like for you moving from a WR coach at UCLA to RB coach here?
Ron Caragher : As a player and a coach, I've been fortunate to be around some great running backs and some great rushing offenses. I think the running game and the play-action passing game go hand in hand. At UCLA, our best success throwing the football came in the play-action passing game which was setup by our effective running game. As far as the two positions, there is a lot of carryover. It's important for receivers, like running backs, to keep their pad level down and to have good "knee bend" when cutting on routes. Further, ball security is emphasized at both positions. What I enjoy most about the running back coaching position is strategizing the game planning for the running game.
Steve Ramsey : What about Rock Johnson, what is the difference for him between this spring and last spring?
Ron Caragher : Rock has improved a great deal from one year ago. Not only does he have a better understanding of our schemes, but he is also playing with a lower pad level and sustaining his blocks. When asked to carry the football, he does a fine job as evidenced by the fact that he averaged more than four yards a carry last season, a good figure for a fullback.
Brian Rickert : As big and fast as Shane Boyd is have you ever thought about using him at running back ?
Ron Caragher : He'd be a great addition to the running back corps. However, I'm sure the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator would not be in agreement with me!
Brandon : Hey coach, I'm a Buckeye but I played ball with one of your up and coming running backs, J.J. Bennet, I was wondering how is he looking so far after you've seen him work out for about a year now? How do you think he will fit into the system at Kentucky? Is he showing any potential?
Ron Caragher : J.J. is having a good spring. However, being a freshman in his first spring, his reps are limited with the experienced tailbacks being in front of him. His hard work is evidenced by him being named last season's offensive scout player of the year. He's a pleasure to have in our program.
ukathletics.com : We would like to thank Coach Caragher for taking time out of his busy day to answer these questions. We will be back next Tuesday with a live chat with Assistant Head Coach, Special Teams Coordinator, Tight Ends Coach Steve Ortmayer.
Ron Caragher : It was my pleasure to be able to answer questions from the fans. In my time here at Kentucky, one of the things I'm most impressed with is the fan support. We look forward to seeing you all at Commonwealth Stadium in the fall.