Kentucky counting on 'big guys' to stuff the run

jtipton@herald-leader.comAugust 30, 2011 

By naming her son "Mister," Cassandra Cobble wanted to ensure that her son could not be dismissed.

"Regardless of what people said to me, they always had to show respect," the University of Kentucky defensive tackle said of his first name. "At a young age, it was strange, at first. As I got older, I learned to understand it. And I learned to appreciate it more. Now I love it, and I love my mother for naming me that."

David Turner, UK's assistant head coach and defensive line coach, prefers to call Cobble by the initials C.P. The player is also named for his grandfather, Charles Percy. Turner said he was not intentionally withholding the respect that comes with the name "Mister" until Cobble — and Kentucky's defense — earn it. But it would be understandable if Turner was withholding any honorary titles.

Last season UK gave up more first downs via rush than it achieved (120-106) and was outgained on the ground by an average of 177.1 yards to 158.5 yards.

"Probably means you're not winning a whole lot of football games," Turner said of those statistics.

Turner called the defensive line the foundation to a defense. UK Coach Joker Phillips echoed his assistant by calling defensive tackle a key position to watch when the Cats open the season Thursday night against Western Kentucky.

If WKU tailback Bobby Rainey can duplicate last season's 184 yards and two touchdowns against UK, the opener might be more interesting than Kentucky would prefer.

"For us to stop the run, you have to have some big guys inside," Phillips said.

UK has size, led by Cobble (6-foot, 332 pounds) and Donte Rumph (6-3, 308).

"We'll try to match big versus big," Phillips said. "Donte is a huge key to that. He and Mister Cobble are big keys to that."

No pun intended.

By big versus big, the UK coach means the collision of offensive and defensive lines. He did not mean Rainey. Western lists him at 5-8 and 205 pounds. He's heard all his life that he's too small. Yet he led the nation with 340 attempts last season, and has averaged 141.5 yards in two games against Kentucky.

"I don't take a lot of big hits," Rainey said of his compact durability. "To explain it, a prime example is Warrick Dunn. He didn't take a lot of hits. If I'm tackled, I don't give the defense extra shots."

Only at the goal line does Rainey struggle and strain for extra yards.

Extra yards are like numbers on the Richter scale. An earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger than one that measures 4.0. So the more yards an opponent gains, the greater a team's morale gets shaken.

"You cannot allow a team to rush for that many yards against you," Phillips said of Rainey's 184-yard game against UK last season. "Rushing yards demoralizes you. You've got to stop the run. When people are able to line up and run the ball on you, it's a slap in the face."

As of early this week, Cobble was listed as second string on UK's depth chart. That might be attributed to his having played only one game in the last three years. He spent that time trying to bolster his academic standing to regain eligibility.

Turner suggested that Cobble, a sophomore from Louisville, may have spent too much time thinking of his social life.

"I'm just assuming," Turner said in appraising Cobble's struggles. "A lot of times when guys are dragging out here on the practice field and not doing what they're supposed to do academically, their social life, their priorities get a little screwed up."

Cobble, who sat in Section 108 for every UK home game last season, said he had no noticeable rust to brush off.

Rumph had his own academic problems to correct. He spent two years at Fork Union Military Academy as a means to improve his performance in the classroom.

Now, Rumph and Cobble represent the guts of a defense that UK hopes will be stout against the run this season.

"We're basically the meat," Rumph said.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service