Former University of Kentucky standout Randall Cobb was listed as a wide receiver on the roster, but he did just about everything for the Cats in 2010.
Cobb was the team’s leading receiver with 1,017 yards and the second-leading rusher with 446 yards. He was even 5-10 with 50 yards and three touchdowns as a quarterback.
Much of Cobb’s production came in the “Wildcat” — or “WildCobb” — formation, where a player other than the quarterback lines up under center. With the Alcoa, Tenn., native now playing for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL, the immediate status of the formation in UK’s offense is uncertain.
“You don’t just replace a guy like Randall with schemes,” said UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders. “People often think there is magic in plays, but plays do nothing but give guys a chance or put them in position to make plays.”
UK’s offense will face the added benefit in 2011 of having a more mobile starting quarterback in junior Morgan Newton, but how much running Newton will do is still up in the air.
“I’ll be able to help out a little bit in the running regard, but (the running backs) are as good as anybody and the offensive line helps,” Newton said.
When asked how much he would run in 2011, Newton said that was “up to coach Sanders.”
Perhaps the most obvious Wildcat option on the UK roster is freshmen dual-threat quarterback Bookie Cobbins.
Cobbins has drawn comparisons to former Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who rushed for over 600 yards and threw for over 2,500 yards in 2010.
“I went out and saw him play when he was in high school, and it was a no brainer,” said UK passing game coordinator Tee Martin of Cobbins during UK’s media day. “He was one of the more talented quarterbacks I saw last year out recruiting. His skill set is different.”
Cobbins currently sits third on the UK depth chart at quarterback, behind Newton and freshman Maxwell Smith. UK has not allowed the freshmen football players to talk to the media during fall practice, but during media day festivities Cobbins said he was open to playing in the Wildcat formation while noting he wanted to remain a quarterback.
“If we have a player that’s good enough to play, we’re going to use him,” Sanders said of using Cobbins in a Wildcat role. “Whether he’s really good enough to help us in those situations, we’re still trying to evaluate.”
During UK’s intra-squad scrimmage on Aug. 20, the UK staff put Cobbins in a white jersey instead of the no-contact red jersey quarterbacks traditionally wear so he could see some action in rushing situations.
After the scrimmage, Sanders said Cobbins’ role with the 2011 team was still up in the air.
“I thought he did some good things today, I thought he did somethings that looked pretty average out there today,” Sanders said. “That evaluation process is still going on.”
Whether Cobbins or another player on the UK roster is used in a Wildcat role this season, UK faces the daunting task of replacing the production lost with Cobb’s ascension to the NFL.
“You take a guy with that ability, but you bring the effort he brought, the concentration he brought and the intensity he brought, that’s what made the Wildcat special,” Sanders said. “Plays don’t replace that type of thing, it will take somebody else stepping up and bringing that same type of effort and intensity.”
Sanders hopes someone on the roster forces the staff to put the ball in his hands.
“I’m anxious to see (if someone steps up),” he said. “They haven’t shown up yet.”
Photos of Bookie Cobbins, by Jon Hale.