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CFF Targets - All in on Ray Davis for 2023
Kentucky RB Ray Davis is on the pre-season All-VP team for 2023
Ray Davis (Kentucky)
I originally wrote about Davis in the inaugural VolumePigs article, however, it bears repeating the immense upside he offers in 2023 with the Kentucky Wildcats. In this article I have added some additional details from the original.
RB Ray Davis (5’9, 205), formerly Re’Mahn Davis, started his career at Temple in 2019. He had an absurd freshman season for the Owls, rushing 193 times for 936 yards and 8 TDs. Not bad for a true frosh. He saw his production dip the next season in the Covid year, and then transferred with NFL aspirations to the Vanderbilt Commodores of the SEC. His 2021 season was off to a hot start before going down with a season-ending injury.
He finished 2021 with 44 carries for 211 yards and a TD in only 3 games, before rebounding in a major way in 2022, rushing the ball 232 times for 1042 yards and 5 TDs. The 2022 numbers are similar to one of his Vanderbilt predecessors, Keyshawn Vaughn, an NFL back who also struggled to find the end zone for the Commodores despite consistent touches and yardage in 2018 and 2019.
The lack of TD production can likely be attributed to the fact that when playing for lowly Vanderbilt, touchdowns are going to be hard to come by. I don’t fault Davis too much for this. CFF managers need not worry about that any longer however, as Davis decided late in 2022 that it was time to hit the road, Jack, and announced he was transferring to Kentucky this offseason. I expect big things from Ray in 2023.
Davis enters a production vacancy left behind by Chris Rodriguez (5’10, 225) at Kentucky. CRod, now off to the NFL, accounted for 400 carries, over 2200 yards, and 16 TDs in the last 2 seasons under Mark Stoops. This is a staff that wants to feature a RB heavily. The UK staff explicitly said themselves in the 2021 offseason that it was going to be their intention to supply CRod with 20-25 touches per game that season:
Chris Rodriguez needs to touch the ball as many times as possible . . . But I think it’s my job and our job as an offensive staff to find different ways for him to touch the football as opposed to just turning around and giving him the ball. That’s something that’s new. I do know that we want to get Chris over 25 touches a game.
If you need more convincing, look up Benny Snell’s college stats under Stoops. Talk about a volume pig. Stoops himself even sort of looks like a pig, need I say more?
The man whom the quote above belongs to is Liam Cohen, Kentucky’s OC in the 2021 season. He has been rehired for 2023, and that is excellent news for Davis. In 2021 under Cohen’s offence, CRod ran 225 times for 1379 yards, and 9 TDs- averaging 18+ touches per game. Davis has already proven he can be a workhorse in the SEC, and has the build to be effective all season for a Kentucky team that is probably going to rely on the run game a lot in Will Levis’ absence next season.
Yes, I know Devin Leary transferred in, but I would still anticipate that the Wildcats will lean heavy run, as has been their identity under Stoops for multiple seasons now.
All-Name team and UK RB2 last season, Kavosiey Smoke, transferred out in the offseason and the remaining RBs on the roster have little to no production in their careers so far, suggesting this backfield is probably going to be Davis’ to lose.
Davis is not just a battering ram of a RB like his predecessor at UK. He proved at Vanderbilt he is also effective as a receiver; in 2022, he caught 29 passes for 169 yards and 3 TDs. When asked about using his RBs in the pass game, Coen had this to say back in 2021:
We’ve got to be able to use these guys in the pass game . . . It’s a talented group and we need to get the ball in their hands as much as possible. Screens, jet sweeps, things like that. Get them out on the perimeter. Get the ball to our athletes in space. And they do such a nice job of making plays when they are in space.
Davis has a better proven track record as a pass catcher than any of the players Coen had at his disposal in 2021, so I expect heavy pass game usage in 2023. While CRod failed to achieve the 25+ touch per game average Coen promised in the 2021 offseason, the fact that Davis is a capable pass catcher should allow him to hit the 20-25 touch per game mark fairly seamlessly.
UK has a favourable OOC schedule. The Wildcats play Ball State, Akron, Louiville, and Eastern Kentucky in 2023. Davis should be extremely productive in each of these games. UK plays Louiville in the last game of the season (CFF championship week) and opens its season with the other three OOC games. He should, at the very least, offer some value to open the season, and in the playoffs.
Also, is it just me or does he look like CFF legend Breece Hall in that photo above? I take that as another good omen.
Not much to dislike here, but while we’re on the topic of schedules, UK plays at UGA this season as per usual SEC scheduling, and hosts the Crimson Tide as their cross-divisional game. Neither matchup occurs during the regular CFF playoff weeks, but these are two games where you’ll probably want to play someone else that week.
I am not the only one expecting big things out of Davis in 2023, the price to acquire him will most likely be steep in re-drafts this summer. He will probably be drafted similarly to where Rodriguez was being taken in 2021 (top 3-5 rounds).
More of a long shot concern, it’s possible Leary takes the passing attack to another level and the offence leans more air heavy than in the past. Personally I don’t foresee that, but you never know.
Similar to his time at Vanderbilt it’s possible UK ends up being a poor team next season, in which case Davis’ production may be capped. I do not expect that to be the case, however.
In my opinion, Davis seems likely to see major volume this season, and the Wildcats should be able to be effective enough as an offence to provide the platform for Davis to produce 20+ FPG. Davis averaged 16.3 FPG last season on a poor Vanderbilt team, he also averaged 4.5 YPC despite running behind a line that was likely outclassed from a talent perspective in two-thirds of the Commodores’ games. As of March 2023, I’d probably be comfortable drafting him as high as round two, though I’d prefer the round three - five range.
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