RICHMOND — By all accounts, Dy’Shawn Mobley’s short time with the University of Kentucky football team did not go as planned.
Mobley came to UK in 2012 with high expectations after setting single-season state records in his native Tennessee with 48 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards on the ground his senior season.
He ran the ball sparingly in his two seasons as a Wildcat.
Mobley has previously outlined what he felt were broken promises about playing time from the UK coaching staff, but he’s also described himself as “a punk” during his time in Lexington, a player who didn’t take the game seriously enough and didn’t work nearly as hard as he could to earn a shot in the backfield.
There’s been no sign of that Dy’Shawn Mobley since he transferred to Eastern Kentucky following the 2013 season.
He led the Ohio Valley Conference in every rushing category last year, going for 1,491 yards and 20 touchdowns, while also catching 33 passes for more than 300 yards and earning the league’s offensive player of the year honors.
On and off the field, Mobley’s coaches and teammates describe him as a vocal leader, someone the Colonels can rally around when times get tough.
Though he enters his senior year as a preseason All-American and the center of attention on this EKU team, his first comments when it was his turn to talk at Colonels Media Day were about his offensive line, a talented, experienced bunch that is often overlooked by the masses but never underappreciated by Mobley.
“We don’t get a lot of compliments,” said senior offensive lineman Brett Eyck-mans, “but he makes sure to do that.”
EKU Coach Dean Hood was obviously pleased with Mobley’s play in his debut season with the Colonels, but he’s even more taken with the way his star player has conducted himself since arriving in Richmond.
“I think even larger than that is the unity, the chemistry that he breeds just because the kind of person he is,” Hood said. “He cares about his teammates. And because of that, our line wants to block for him. Our whole team sees that back and forth where he wants to run hard for them, and they want to block for him.
“That just really helps our team — top to bottom — with our chemistry.”
One reporter noted the “easy transition” that Mobley made from little-used running back at UK to instant superstar at EKU, and the Colonels standout quickly corrected him.
“It definitely wasn’t easy,” Mobley said. “It might have looked like it was easy, but it definitely wasn’t. I just had to grow up as a person, knowing that my coaches and my teammates were going to depend on me each and every Saturday to make a play when a play was needed.”
Mobley shows his gratitude for his offensive linemen by cooking meals for them — Eyckmans is particularly fond of the running back’s chicken and rice — and he’s now roommates with defensive end Noah Spence, acting as a mentor of sorts for the talented transfer from Ohio State who had some off-the-field problems in Columbus but is looking to get back on track with the Colonels.
So if Mobley really felt as if he acted like “a punk” at times during his early college days, he’s certainly matured since. He’s turned the page on that chapter of his football career, with the focus now on leading EKU to a conference title and some victories in the FCS playoffs.
On the way to that goal, he’ll get a chance to show his former team what he’s become — when the Colonels come into Commonwealth Stadium on Oct. 3.
“Can’t wait,” Mobley said, flashing a big smile. “I’m so excited for that game, it’s crazy. We talk about it every day.”
Coach: Dean Hood (49-33 in seven seasons at Eastern Kentucky)
Last season: 9-4 overall; 6-2 and second place in Ohio Valley Conference
Returning starters: 18 (8 offense, 8 defense, 2 special teams)
Outlook: The Colonels are picked by the media to finish second in the OVC and are ranked No. 17 in the FCS in both the STATS and coaches’ preseason polls.
The offense is expected to pick up plenty of yards on the ground with OVC player of the year Dy’Shawn Mobley running behind an offensive line that includes two all-league selections, four returning starters and plenty more depth behind that. The late addition of Florida transfer Adam Lane — a former four-star recruit — will add another interesting wrinkle to the Colonels’ run game.
Bennie Coney is back at quarterback, along with Jeff Glover and Devin Borders — the team’s top two receivers in 2014.
Do-it-all cornerback Stanley Absanon should be the leader in the defensive backfield. Linebackers Chris Kelly, Marquise Piton, LaJuan Smith and Trey Thomas all have starting experience and combined for 32 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks last season.
Question marks: The Colonels gave up a combined 585 yards in their two conference losses last season, and Hood said stopping the run in big games will be one of the keys to EKU’s 2015 campaign.
Game of the year: The matchup with UK on Oct. 4 will generate headlines, but the Oct. 31 game at Jacksonville State will be a bigger indicator of the Colonels’ season. The Gamecocks are favorites once again to win the OVC, and they beat EKU, 20-6, in Richmond last season.
QB Bennie Coney: The junior should have the quarterbacking duties to himself after splitting time with Jared McClain last season. “I think this will be a breakout year for him,” Coach Dean Hood said.
WR Jeff Glover: He’s back for his senior season after leading the Colonels with 43 catches for 746 yards in 2014. Coney has high expectations: “He’s going to show the world how hard he’s been working.”
OL Brett Eyckmans: An All-OVC first-team selection last season and one of four returning starters on the Colonels’ offensive line.
DE Noah Spence: Expectations are high for Spence, who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore at Ohio State, leading the Buckeyes in sacks that season before being sidelined after two failed drug tests. His coaches and teammates say he’s matured during his time in Richmond. “I can’t wait to see him play,” said roommate Dy’Shawn Mobley. “He’s been killing it in practice. It’s going to be exciting.”
CB Stanley Absanon: He tied a team high with four interceptions last season (one for a touchdown). Hood said he hasn’t had a player like Absanon since he was defensive coordinator at Wake Forest. “I really think he’s got a shot at the next level.”