UK Football

Getting hit never felt better

Randall Cobb took the shotgun handoff, got a nice block from receiver Eric Adeyemi, and picked up several downfield yards on a sweep to the left side before a hard hit knocked him to the ground.

A jubilant Cobb quickly picked himself up, turned toward the sideline and shouted, "I'm back!"

Under normal circumstances, Cobb probably wouldn't have made such a big deal about gaining a few yards on a simple quarterback sweep, but it was the first time that Cobb had taken a hit in nearly five months.

Cobb had to undergo arthroscopic surgery after injuring his knee in the regular-season finale at Tennessee. He missed UK's Liberty Bowl win over East Carolina and wore a red no-contact jersey during the first two weeks of spring practice.

Cobb had live scrimmage action for the first time on Wednesday, and welcomed the contact with open arms.

"It's been a long time," Cobb said. "I'm just finally back in the groove and got that first hit out of the way. Coming off injury you have a lot of jitters about taking that first hit, thinking you're going to get hurt again."

But Cobb will be lined up a little differently than he was the last time he was in full pads. Cobb was Kentucky's starting quarterback for the Tennessee game, but a solid Liberty Bowl showing by Mike Hartline led Brooks to name Hartline the starter for spring practice with Cobb focusing mainly on receiver.

But Cobb will still have some opportunities to run the show. The Cats are the latest program to implement some form of the change-of-pace, "Wildcat" offense that became en vogue after Mississippi Coach Houston Nutt used Darren McFadden to dissect defenses with it at Arkansas two years ago. The NFL's Miami Dolphins had similar success with running back Ronnie Brown in the Wildcat last fall.

UK Coach Rich Brooks and head coach of the offense Joker Phillips pointed out one major difference with their version of the Wildcat: Cobb isn't just a runner.

"The one thing different about our package is our guy can throw," Brooks said. "I think that will be a different problem for defenses because he can do both."

"Everybody has a Wildcat package, and now most defenses have a check to the Wildcat package. The reason why they can have a check is because they don't have to play the pass. With our Wildcat package, Randall Cobb can throw, so you've got defend. I think our Wildcat package will be a lot more effective than some of the others we've seen because of that."

Brooks said that the staff will continue to add wrinkles to its Wildcat package in the off-season. In the meantime, Cobb will continue to make the adjustment to receiver, an area where he showed go-to-guy type of ability in limited action at the position. His 21 catches were fourth on the team, and his two TD receptions tied for the team lead.

How the quarterback snaps get divvied up should get even more interesting once freshmen Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski arrive in the fall. Brooks said that Cobb will get a few snaps in the Wildcat regardless and could see even more if Hartline were to go down.

"If something were to happen to Hartline early, and (Cobb) was the next best guy then he would have to resume taking a lot more reps at quarterback," Brooks said. "We'll have to see how all that plays out in the fall when we get the rest of our team in here."

Cobb showed enough potential as a freshman to think he could develop into an outstanding college quarterback, and in his heart of hearts admits that he still thinks of himself as a signal-caller.

"I still consider myself somewhat of a quarterback," Cobb said. "I'm a full-time receiver, but I'm still somewhat of a quarterback. I played it a lot in high school, and I played it a lot last year. It's still in my blood, and it's still in my nature to throw the ball."

But he's handled the situation and doesn't appear publicly bothered by not being the full-time QB. He cited his trust in the coaching staff, which he has stated is the reason he picked Kentucky over Tennessee.

"I know these coaches know what they're doing and have been in this game for a long time," Cobb said. "They know what's best for the team. If they think it's what best for me and the team to move to receiver, I'll do it. They're not going to do me wrong. They're not going to do this team wrong. The reason I came here was the trust I had in Coach Sanders, Coach Brooks and Coach Phillips, and they haven't proven me wrong since I've been here."