Rich Brooks threw down the verbal gauntlet Monday at his weekly news conference.
His challenge: Come up with the best word(s) to describe Randall Cobb and the dramatic impact the sophomore playmaker is having on the 2009 Kentucky football season.
The dynamic Cobb's fourth-quarter heroics have accounted for UK's two biggest wins of the season, Saturday's uplifting road victory at Auburn and last month's narrow home escape against Louisville.
Said Brooks: "A lot of you guys who write or speak for a living will be more eloquent and find the right adjective."
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Given a quest, I conferred with a panel (of Jeffs) on the best description for Randall Cobb.
"Really special," said Jeff Piecoro, the color analyst for the UK football radio network and a wide receiver on Kentucky's 1984 Hall of Fame Bowl champions.
"Remarkable player," said Jeff Van Note, the former Kentucky standout and Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowler who is a longtime sports radio personality.
Cobb, the 5-foot-11, 188-pound sophomore receiver/runner/Wildcat formation quarterback from Alcoa, Tenn., ranks this week in the top 10 of five Southeastern Conference statistical categories.
"He's very versatile, has the ability to do so many different things, and he does them all at a high level," said Van Note.
In my 45 years, I have watched a truly distressing amount of UK football. Over all that time, I've not seen a player who seems able to rise to the occasion late in close games and assert his will on the outcome in the way Cobb has this season.
In the tension-packed final period against Louisville, Cobb made two game-changing plays.
With UK down 20-17 and all the momentum riding with the Cardinals, Cobb took a 3rd-and-10 screen pass and ran right into a gaggle of Louisville tacklers well short of the first-down marker.
Instead of going down, Cobb somehow squirted loose and picked up a first down that sparked a UK TD drive.
Later, during a different possession, Cobb outjumped a taller U of L defensive back on a fade pattern in the end zone to haul in the game-winning touchdown.
"Whatever 'It' is, he has 'It,' " Piecoro said.
In Saturday's win at Auburn, Cobb ripped off a 61-yard scamper from the Wildcat formation to set up his game-winning TD jaunt.
Yet Cobb's most memorable moment arguably came on the drive before.
From the Auburn 6, Cobb ran a sweep around left end and encountered tacklers as he turned the corner. So he dived toward the end zone while stretching the ball over the pylon for an apparent touchdown.
The replay official ultimately overturned the TD, saying (correctly) that Cobb had stepped out of bounds on the 2. It was left to Will Fidler to run the ball in for the UK TD that tied the game at 14.
Yet the sheer hunger to win embodied in Cobb's all-out dive for pay dirt was unforgettable.
"He is just a spectacular, competitive playmaker," Brooks said.
In addition to his fourth-quarter heroics in the wins over U of L and Auburn, Cobb all but singlehandedly drove UK for the potential tying touchdown (a failed two-point conversion preventing the tie) against South Carolina.
So unique is Cobb's skill set, it's hard to come up with a prior player that he most resembles.
"He's like nobody I've seen at Kentucky," said Van Note.
Piecoro suggests former Indiana option quarterback Antwaan Randle El. But in college, Randle El was primarily a QB, not the all-over-the-field threat Cobb is.
In the Herald-Leader sports department, we've settled on current Pittsburgh Steelers star Hines Ward from his days at Georgia.
Like Cobb, Ward was a touted high school quarterback who moved to receiver in college but was used in a variety of different roles in Athens.
"I think Hines is a very good comparison," Van Note said. "One thing Randall has that you think of with Hines, toughness."
Brooks says the UK brain trust has a fine line to walk with Cobb — and, for that matter, with smallish running back Derrick Locke — in terms of asking too much and risking injury as a result.
Last year, Cobb missed time with two injuries, a high ankle sprain and a knee-cartilage problem. This pre-season, he had a back ailment.
"He is again hobbled a little bit this week," Brooks said Monday. "We have to be a little more careful."
As for the best word choice to describe Cobb. Brooks did have an offering of his own.
Cobb, the UK coach said, "is just a great football player."
That pretty well covers it.