Mr. Resilient

Most players who spend at least three years at Kentucky have faced more than their fair share of tough opponents.

Alabama. Florida. Auburn. Georgia. LSU. Pick your poison.

For Josh Clemons, though, no bone-jarring defender from any of those talent-rich programs has been as formidable as Lady Luck. Or perhaps more accurately in his case, plain ol’ misfortune.

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The junior running back from Georgia has spent each of the last three years at Kentucky plagued by an assortment of injuries ranging from a knee injury that cut short his promising freshman season to a ruptured Achilles tendon just prior to last season.

One couldn't blame him if he was ready to hang up his spikes, but the resilient Clemons has never stopped chasing his dream.

"I'm 100 percent," Clemons said Tuesday morning after the Wildcats' second day of fall camp. "I'm so ready to go. I can't wait for the season to get here. During spring, I felt like my body was finally getting back to full strength, and I had a great summer, so I'm just ready to go out there and show what I can do in a real game to help this team win."

"He looks fantastic, and he feels fantastic," UK running backs coach Chad Scott said. "... We don't even talk about the past anymore. He's at a good spot in his mind, that old stuff is behind him. We just talk about the positive things he's been doing."

His story has been inspiring to coaches and teammates alike.

"Some of the injuries he's had," Scott said, "I don't know if I could have come back from that.

"It's an inspiration to myself and some of those young guys that take things for granted and don't necessarily know how to take care of business on and off the football field and understand the importance of playing every play like it's your last play."

Clemons had a solid spring, competing with sophomore Jojo Kemp, Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard and freshman Mikel Horton for the majority of reps.

And he did not rest on his laurels in the off-season.

One look at Clemons' physique indicates how much work he's done. UK's high-tech strength and conditioning program has helped him put on about eight pounds of solid muscle. He's now carrying a personal-high 222 pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame, giving the Cats a different style of ball-carrier than Kemp or Heard and more experience than talented newcomer Horton.

But don't suggest Clemons is merely a power back. He says he's also faster and more explosive than ever.

"I'm a big guy, but I can really run," Clemons said. "I'm faster than I've ever been. I can get out on the edge, either running the ball or catching it out of the backfield. Or I can run it between the tackles. I feel like I'm a complete back."

"He's a tough, downhill guy for us that can do a lot for us and move the chains," said Scott, who added that Clemons' pass-catching skills are also a big plus. He noted that Clemons did not drop a single pass during spring practice.

Clemons' biggest challenge since arriving in Lexington (outside of almost constant injury rehabilitation) was learning to pass protect. That aspect was magnified even more when offensive coordinator Neal Brown brought the Air Raid offense back to UK.

"Never did it in high school," Clemsons said with a smile.

"Can't play if you can't do it," said Scott, who noted that the extra attention Clemsons has given that aspect of the game will help his chances of being on the field more in 2014.

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