Cobb, a 5-foot-11, 186-pound junior receiver, and Locke, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior tailback, represent one of the Southeastern Conference's most explosive sets of playmakers. Both were voted first-team All-SEC last week, and you'd be hard-pressed to find two players who did more for their team's offense last season.
Cobb and Locke combined for 2,300 yards in 2009, more than 53 percent of UK's total offense, and scored 24 of the Wildcats' 41 touchdowns. The only duo that was better statistically was Alabama's 1-2 running back tandem of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, who combined for 2,869 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Beyond the numbers, Cobb and Locke came up huge at key moments. At Auburn, Locke rushed for 126 yards and Cobb 109, with Cobb's 4-yard run with 3:17 remaining wrapping up UK's first win over the Tigers in 43 years. They were even better in a bowl-eligibility clinching win at Vanderbilt, with Locke rushing for 144 yards and Cobb 99, and each scored a second-half touchdown that helped UK erase a three-point halftime deficit and post a 24-13 win. And Cobb ran for two touchdowns while Locke caught two TD passes in a 34-27 win at Georgia the following week.
Cobb and Locke play with toughness and physicality that belies their smallish stature. Cobb doesn't have blazing speed but uses great instincts and excellent footwork to make defenders miss. Locke is more of a burner who can turn a small crease into a home run in a split second. Both players are also All-SEC caliber on special teams and each had a return touchdown in 2009.
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"You have to game plan for those types of players every week," Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve said during SEC Media Days. "Cobb, he's tough to bring down. Locke, he's super-fast. Every team has great skill people so it's hard to say who's the best in the league, but those two guys are right up there."
The UK offense milked all it could out of Cobb and Locke last year and kept them both in one piece for the most part. But both players are under 200 pounds and asking them to carry such a heavy load for a second consecutive season could be risky, and teams figure to be even more zeroed in on Cobb and Locke than they were last year if that's possible.
"Those are two dynamic players, no question about that," UK Coach Joker Phillips said. "We've got to get the ball in their hands. Those two guys are the reason we had the rushing stats we did and the number of wins that we did.
"But we need some other guys to step up and take some pressure off them also."
At times, it seemed that the team was standing around waiting for either Cobb or Locke to make a play.
"Sometimes you can sense guys looking around for someone," Cobb said. "You've got to go get it. If you wait for somebody else, it's not going to happen."
"It's not going to be just Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke," Locke said. "Our job is to get other people involved. If we want to take it to the next level, we can't do it with two guys. There's too much wear-and-tear in this league."
Phillips envisions a versatile, well-balanced UK offense like the one he ran in 2007 with Andre Woodson at quarterback, Rafael Little in the backfield and Keenan Burton, Steve Johnson and Jacob Tamme catching passes.
Locke was a true freshman on that squad.
"We were loaded; we had so many weapons," Locke recalled. "That's what you're looking for right there. Defenses couldn't key in on one or two guys. There's no telling how many I would have had if I could have played the whole year."
Locke finished with 907 rushing yards last season and might have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark had he not sat out the Eastern Kentucky game to rest a sore knee. Locke said going over 1,000 is on his to-do list this fall.
"If you want to be recognized as a great back, if you're a first-team All-SEC back, you have to get 1,000 yards," Locke said. "It has to happen."
Locke and Cobb are confident that they'll get much more help in 2010. The quarterback play should be improved. The running back corps should be deeper and more talented. At receiver, Chris Matthews should be better acclimated in his second year out of junior college and there are promising youngsters such as La'Rod King and Brian Adams in the mix.
"I think the waiting for us to make a play, that's a thing of the past now," Cobb said. "We've got a lot more guys who are more comfortable stepping into their roles and know what to do on offense. You might see our production go down this year because we have that many guys around us who can make plays. Don't be surprised if I don't have as many catches or score as many touchdowns. There's going to be other guys making plays downfield."
"We've been encouraging the guys all summer," Locke said. "My running backs, I've been getting after all them. Who's going to step up? Who wants to get some snaps? I want those guys to get their names out there. Randall's doing the same thing with the wide receivers. I really don't feel like it'll be a two-man show this year."
There was one constant every Saturday during the 2009 Kentucky football season.
Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke were going to get the ball. A lot.
The UK coaches knew it. Opposing defensive coordinators knew it. Everybody knew it.
And still, not many teams were able to stop it.