The Wildcat formation has become all the rage in college football.
Take one of your best athletes, line him up at quarterback in the shotgun formation, surround him with one or two speedy backs and let him run around and make plays while splitting the regular quarterback out wide.
That's the Wildcat. And even the Wildcats are using it.
Kentucky ran three plays out of this formation — with Randall Cobb at quarterback — in its season opener against Miami (Ohio) and scored touchdowns on two of them: a 16-yard sweep by Derrick Locke and an 11-yard scamper by Cobb.
Expect to see more of the Wildcat package, with some new wrinkles added, in the weeks to come, although Cobb was coy about details after the Cats' 42-0 win over Miami.
UK Coach Rich Brooks and head coach for offense Joker Phillips said they didn't put a gag order on Cobb regarding what they plan to do with the Wildcat.
In fact, Phillips said the Wildcat isn't even a new concept at Kentucky, noting that the UK staff tried to run it during Brooks' first season in 2003.
Kentucky faced Louisville in the season opener that year, and backup quarterback Shane Boyd, a mobile dual-threat guy, came in on the fifth play of the game with the near 300-pound Jared Lorenzen split out wide. But Boyd's pass attempt was picked off and returned to the Louisville 4, and the Cards scored to take a 14-0 lead and went on to win 40-24.
The Wildcat formation was scrapped after that.
"This Wildcat thing, you guys are blowing it up bigger than it is," Phillips said. "I remember you guys getting on our tail when we ran it with Shane Boyd and Jared Lorenzen. When it works, it looks good. When it doesn't, we get criticized for it. We thought it was a great idea in 2003, but it didn't work, and we kind of got ran out of it."
The Wildcat formation didn't take off nationally until Coach Houston Nutt was successful running it with Darren McFadden at Arkansas starting in 2005. Now, most college programs have some form of a Wildcat package in their playbook. Even the NFL, which has often turned up its nose at college fads such as the Run 'n' Shoot, has caught on.
During its 47-15 win over Rutgers on Monday, Cincinnati Coach Brian Kelly put redshirt freshman tight end Trevor Kelce, a 6-foot-5, 247-pounder, in the Wildcat formation and he scored two touchdowns on his three carries.
When asked whether the UK staff was ahead of the curve with the Wildcat, Phillips smiled and said, "That's what I like to think."
UK seems better equipped to run the Wildcat in 2009. Cobb fits the profile of most Wildcat quarterbacks with his running ability but, unlike many, he's also a threat throwing the ball. And with Locke and Alfonso Smith, two guys with sub 4.4 40-yard dash times, capable of lining up on either side of Cobb, the possibilities are endless. Phillips said several players have come to him campaigning for a chance to take a few snaps at quarterback in the Wildcat.
"It's caught on like wildfire," Phillips said. "Everybody wants to run it, but Randall's the guy. You put him back there with a guy like Locke, that's a lot of speed out there."
Technically, the formation wasn't called the Wildcat when UK tried it in 2003, but sometimes the label on the package can make it an easier sell.
"It's nothing more than the triple option," Phillips said. "But if we had said that when we first put this thing in, it would have gotten really ugly. So we're not running the triple option, we're running the Wildcat."
■ Brooks watched film of Louisville's 30-10 win over Indiana State on Saturday. The Cards will visit Commonwealth Stadium for UK's home opener Sept. 19.
"Defensively, I was very impressed with their speed and quickness and the way they played," Brooks said. "They basically completely shut (Indiana State) down. That's hard to do against Squawhaukee Canyon Institute of Technology."
Brooks said U of L's struggles offensively were a by-product of 14 penalties.
"They obviously would have scored a lot more points had they not had all of the yellow flags," he said.
■ Brooks was not pleased Tuesday with his team's first practice since the win over Miami. UK will practice on Wednesday and Thursday before taking Friday and Saturday off.
"I was not happy today," Brooks said. "I think we can practice a lot better than we practiced today."
Trevathan has surgery
Sophomore linebacker Danny Trevathan had surgery Monday to repair a fractured bone in his wrist. Trevathan isn't expected to return to practice until next Tuesday at the earliest but is expected to continue to play in a cast starting with the Louisville game.
"He's in a lot of pain right now," Brooks said. "It's not a pain-free experience when they drill a hole in your bone and put a pin in it."