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August 12, 2009

Kentucky's Cobb ready for his new role

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Under a brilliant sun at Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky's Randall Cobb was slouched in a chair, resting his head in the palm of one hand while cradling a football with the other.

"Tired of talking. Tired of answering questions," he said with a smile. "I just want to go play football."

The waning moments of media day ushered in the first practice a few hours later, and Cobb dove headfirst into what promises to be a fascinating season for the sophomore.

Consider the story lines. Cobb is coming off a knee injury, moving from quarterback to wide receiver and even finds himself the focal point as Kentucky adds a new 'Wildcat' formation to its offensive set.

KNEE INJURY

Cobb is preparing for his first game since tearing the meniscus in the regular-season finale, missing the Liberty Bowl and undergoing surgery in December.

"Obviously, you're going to think about injuries at times, but you can't let the fear overcome you," Cobb said. "I've always been taught that fear is false evidence appearing real. And that's what coming back from an injury is all about - fear. I don't want any fear in me."

After the spring game in April, Cobb announced he was headed home to Knoxville, Tenn., to work out with his track standout relatives to regain leg muscle strength and speed.

"Oh, I got my speed back," Cobb said. "I got a lot stronger, too."

MOVING TO WIDE RECEIVER

Not only is Cobb making the switch to full-time wideout, he instantly becomes the team's go-to playmaker.

"Being able to work all spring and summer at receiver has given me a lot more confidence in myself," Cobb said.

Coach Rich Brooks heaped on the praise, saying, "He's going to be, in my mind, one of the more exciting receivers in our league, which makes him one of the better ones in the nation."

Cobb took that compliment in stride.

"I always want to be the best. That's my goal," he said. "If coach believes I can do it, then I believe I can do it."

But there are other goals, too. The sophomore wants to help the receiving corps earn respect from the fan base.

"I would like to say that we should be appreciated, but I know that we're not," Cobb said. "As people we might get respect, but as a football player we're not going to get respect. You have to make the plays. Young or old, no matter what, you have to make the plays to get respect as a football player."

Kentucky's receivers, which featured numerous true freshmen last season, compiled only 2,234 yards and 11 touchdowns. That was a dramatic drop from the 3,743 yards and 40 touchdowns in 2007.

"It was very tough at times," Cobb said. "But the reason you endure the toughness is so that when you reach success it's a lot better for you. That's one thing I've noticed about the receivers today is that we're a lot more hungry.

"We want to play. We want to give the quarterbacks that confidence to make the throws downfield and not make the check-down throws to the running backs. We want them to have the confidence they can take the shot downfield and have faith in us to catch it."

Part of that confidence will be Cobb's relationship with quarterback Mike Hartline, with whom he competed for the job last year.

"It's very important that Mike and I have a close relationship," Cobb said. "A receiver that doesn't have a relationship with his quarterback is just going to cause problems. If you look in the past to bad situations like that with T.O. [Terrell Owens] and Donovan McNabb, it's hard to have a good season with a bad relationship."

WILDCAT FORMATION

Kentucky is adding a 'Wildcat' formation package to his offense this season. The set moves the team's best athlete under center instead of the quarterback. Florida receiver Percy Harvin was brilliant in that role last season, and Cobb would appear to be a perfect fit as well.

"We're going to get the ball in his hands in our 'Wildcat' package and give him an opportunity to run and throw the ball a little bit," Brooks said. "He's going to be a real key ingredient in trying to bring more points back to our offense."

While excited about the new wrinkle, don't expect Cobb to be whispering in the coach's ear about when it's best to call those plays.

"No, I'll just let the coaches decide when we put the 'Wildcat' in or when we run certain plays," Cobb said with a laugh. "That's not up to me. That's why they're coaches. That's what they're getting paid to do."


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