Couch back in SEC — as TV analyst

Former UK star Tim Couch will begin a weekly gig as an analyst on Fox Sports South's SEC Gridiron Live.
Former UK star Tim Couch will begin a weekly gig as an analyst on Fox Sports South's SEC Gridiron Live.

It's the thrill that comes from putting everything on the line in real time that Tim Couch misses from playing football.

The one-time University of Kentucky star and former NFL quarterback has found something that, in a way, brings the same buzz.

Live television.

This fall, Couch will begin a weekly gig as an analyst on Fox Sports South's SEC Gridiron Live. It is an hourly show that airs live at 10 on Wednesday nights. It is devoted to hitting the hot topics of Southeastern Conference football.

"The buzz you get from live TV is a little like what you get from playing," Couch said. "I miss that feeling. It's not the same, but in a way, this does fill that void."

Couch will also work this fall as color analyst for the SEC football games shown on Fox Sports South beginning Sept. 4 with Arkansas State at Auburn.

So as the days count down toward the start of football, Couch is studying up on the SEC. Starting Sept. 1, he has to be prepared to trade quips and opinions on a show with broadcast veterans Randy Cross and Charles Davis.

"The difference with the studio show versus working a game, is that you have to be familiar with every team in the league," Couch said. "I need to know the head coaches, the coordinators, their philosophies, the quarterbacks, the key players and all the story lines for every team in the league every week. When you're working a game, you study two teams."

Couch's early view of the SEC is: The West is best.

"Alabama, obviously, is the favorite," he says of the defending national champion. "But I really like Arkansas, think if their defense steps up, that they can make noise. Auburn and LSU also have a chance to be good."

In the East, Couch figures as usual the path to the title runs through Florida.

The guy who spent the autumns of 1997 and '98 putting up stratospheric passing numbers for Kentucky says he thinks new Wildcats Coach Joker Phillips "will do fine.

"He obviously needs a quarterback to come through," Couch said before Phillips announced that veteran Mike Hartline will start in the season opener at Louisville. "If that happens, Kentucky really has some weapons with (Randall) Cobb and (Derrick) Locke."

The UK defense, especially the front seven, is his biggest concern with the Cats, Couch says.

In 1999, when the expansion Cleveland Browns made Couch the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, no one would have dreamed that the former Leslie County High School legend would be working in the television industry by age 33.

Rather than the pro football stardom he envisioned, Couch absorbed in Cleveland a horrid physical beating behind expansion-quality offensive lines. Over time, shoulder problems robbed him of his arm strength. He lasted only five years in the League.

Now, he must dread every NFL draft. Invariably, as draft day approaches, Couch sees his name listed near the top of lists of all-time pro football busts.

"It doesn't hurt my feelings," Couch said. "But I am always kind of fascinated by who I'm listed as a bust with. If you look at my career numbers and the other guys who are usually on that list, I have three times the stats they have."

(Couch had 64 touchdown passes and 67 interceptions in the NFL. The numbers for other QBs who tend to get singled out as major draft busts: Ryan Leaf 14/36; Cade McNown 16/19; Akili Smith 5/13).

Earlier this year, Couch's father, Elbert, one of the more colorful figures in Kentucky, died in the spring after suffering a stroke.

Tim Couch is now a dad himself. He and his wife, the model Heather Kozar, have two boys, Chase, 5, and Brady, 16 months.

Down the road, a next-generation Couch quarterback could emerge.

"It's hard to tell when they're this young," Couch said. "My oldest boy, right now he's really into dinosaurs and SpongeBob. The youngest one, he always wants a ball in his hand and is trying to say 'football.' Maybe he's the quarterback."

This fall, rather than throwing passes, Chase and Brady's dad will be on TV talking about the passes thrown by others.

More nerve-wracking: Talking on live television or facing a zone blitz from the Pittsburgh Steelers?

"I'd have to say the Steelers," Couch said. "Their zone blitz can hurt you a whole lot more than getting somebody's name wrong on TV."