Randall Cobb returned to Lexington on Wednesday evening after visiting a back specialist in Columbus, Ga., and the sophomore all-purpose threat said he's confident that he'll be ready for Kentucky's football season opener against Miami University at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium on Sept. 5.
Cobb hasn't practiced this week and said his back began flaring up earlier this summer. UK Coach Rich Brooks said Cobb has been experiencing spasms and is hopeful that the problem can be alleviated with stretching and muscle relaxers.
"I know I've got to take this time off to let the injury take care of itself so it won't be a problem during the season," Cobb said. "I'm not concerned at all."
Cobb did some light running during the first of UK's two practices Thursday. Brooks said there's no timetable for Cobb's return to full-contact practice.
"He's not 100 percent obviously, or he'd be out here," Brooks said. "We're just working through it, and we'll let the trainers tell us when he's ready to practice."
UK head coach for offense Joker Phillips said he'll try to keep Cobb mentally sharp with film work and practice time in the huddle.
"I know everybody's been out here working hard and trying to get better, and make the team better, and not being able to be out there, it's been hard."
Phillips said the missed practice time won't hurt Cobb.
"He's a guy that studies all the time," Phillips said "There won't be a lot of physical reps, but we hope we can have him mentally ready. We just have to get him to the game. He knows what's going on. And it will give us an opportunity to develop some depth."
The UK coaching staff had planned on putting in the "Wildcat" package with Cobb at quarterback this week but has had to use receiver Gene McCaskill as a fill-in to provide some tape to use as a teaching tool for the rest of the offense.
Phillips said the "Wildcat" package isn't that complex, so Cobb wouldn't need an overabundance of practice time running it.
"Randall understands (the "Wildcat")," Phillips said. "It's not much different from our normal offense. If we can just get him a few reps the week of the game, he'll be fine."
Huzzie needs surgery
Freshman linebacker Qua Huzzie will require surgery on his left shoulder and will be redshirted for the 2009 season.
Huzzie suffered the injury early in fall camp, and Brooks said results from an MRI on Wednesday revealed that season-ending surgery was necessary.
Huzzie, who played at LaGrange (Ga.), had been impressive in fall camp working behind middle linebacker Micah Johnson and probably would have contributed as a backup and special teams player this year.
"It's a tough situation for him," Brooks said. "He looked like he was going to be in position to play some and help us. It's a shame, but it's better for it to happen now than in the fourth or fifth game when he couldn't get a redshirt year."
Brooks said sophomore Ronnie Sneed has had an excellent camp and is a contender for a backup spot in the middle along with senior Mikhail Mabry and sophomore Antonio Thomas.
Redshirt freshman Will Johnson, true freshman Ridge Wilson and junior Jacob Dufrene are the main contenders for reserve duty at outside linebacker behind Sam Maxwell and Danny Trevathan.
"I feel fine about the depth," Brooks said. "We're playing people on ability, and just because a freshman was playing doesn't mean that there weren't other good people in the mix."
Another freshman, running back Jonathan George, suffered a possible high ankle sprain on Wednesday. Brooks said he was uncertain how long George would be out.
Brooks turns 68
Brooks celebrated his 68th birthday Thursday, and a group of players serenaded him after practice. Included in that group was freshman quarterback Morgan Newton, who got some extra special attention from Brooks in practice earlier.
"He got an earful out there today; I'm a little surprised he's out there," Brooks said with a laugh.