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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Swan Song

I've been putting it off for a couple of days but it is time for UK Football Fan's final post. We'll make this a double column, looking at UK's bowl game, then turning the focus over to the season as a whole and the direction of the Wildcat program. Update: I wrote most of this column last night then learned this morning that Randall Cobb is planning to enter the NFL Draft.

This past weekend I travelled down to Birmingham with my 7 year old son, who just may be the biggest seven-year-old football fanatic in the country. This kid will occasionally say things to me like, "he is locking in on one receiver, and not looking for someone who is open" or "if Boise State had beaten Nevada, Arkansas might not have gone to the Sugar Bowl". I swear.

We met up in Nashville with my cousin, who'd flown out from Denver. By 6pm we were in Birmingham. Having lived for several years in neighboring Tuscaloosa, the only thing I remembered about Birmingham was its paper mill, and the consequent rotton eggs smell eminating onto the highway every time we drove through. Birmingham wasn't too bad. Pretty typical southern mid-sized town. The "Magic City" went out of its way to make people feel welcome. At least the local bars and restaurants did, with welcoming signs and BBVA Compass Bowl branding everywhere. Streets were easily navigated. There were no crowds.

Unfortunaely, that is where the party ended. The Bowl experience itself could not have been more second rate. Legion Field is a pit. The parking lot had abandoned basketball courts in it, covered with gravel but with baskets still up. The stadium was in obvious disrepair (the opper deck on one side has been condemned and was torn down), concessions were out of the 70s and there was not a hint of modernity to any of the amenities.

The game itself was marred by nearly inaudible Referree-PA connection, no PA music whatsoever and of course a spartan crowd. By far the biggest problem, though, was a lack of instant replay in the stadium. For the first few minutes of the game, one end zone screen (tiny as it was) would show the ESPN feed while the other showed ads. Inexpicably, the two would switch on occasion, making it hard to know where to look. Late in the first quarter the ESPN feed went the way of the dodo, never to be seen again.

Of course all of this pissing and moaning on my part is hard to separate from the game itself. Given the stakes and the circumstances, this might have been the worst performance by a Kentucky team since we dropped one to Ohio back in 2004. Yeah, we got our asses kicked by Florida really bad a few times since then, but when is the last time your felt this let down by a Kentucky team? Basically six weeks to prepare and we showed up with no game plan, no fight and no ability to execute.

I owe an apology to Steve Ortmeyer. Maybe you weren't the problem all along. A fake handoff off of a fake punt. Really? Another blocked punt, a holding call on a return. The beat goes on and on. New defensive coordinator comes in. Does he not realize Pitt is going to try to run the ball down our throats? No game plan, no nothing. Just a putrid, sleepwalking performance. The biggest disappointment may have been only seeing Cobb touch the ball a handful of times in what is now said to be his last game.

Where does this leave us? At this point I think Joker has two years to move the program forward. Next year will have to be written off as a disaster. Without Matthews, Locke and presumably Cobb, the Cats will have fewer offensive weapons than in 2008, generally considered the low water mark on offense in the "New Kentucky" era. As for the triggerman, things look even bleaker. For all of Morgan Newton's merits, he is nothing like what was advertised coming in from high school. A supposed dual threat, Newton looks like he has trouble getting out of his own way while running. Never was that more apparent than on a crucial 4th and 1 in the 3rd where Newton appeared to count three Mississippi before running on a quarterback sneak when he literally needed to do nothing other than fall forward. That Ryan Mossakowski did not sniff the field in this game speaks volumes about where he must be as a quarterback. Nonetheless, the Cats need to have an open competition for QB1 next year because that person is going to have to carry the team. Sadly, whatever "it" is, Newton doesn't seem to have it.

The Defense should be somewhat improved, with Minter given a year to implement his schemes and added experience. Assuming Travathan and/or Winston Guy don't follow Cobb to the pros, we lose only Dequin Evans and Ricky Lumkin from the starting 11. The Cats will have to shore up their front 7 to have any chance to compete in the SEC next year. How they plan to do that with the talent on hand is anyone's guess.

All in all, I assume 2011 will be the year the bowl streak ends. The Louisville game will be a mighty challenge, and UK will probably be underdogs in 6-7 conference games (possible exceptions being @Vandy and a merciful home date with Ole Miss) . LSU joins the schedule and Auburn falls off, which as far as we're concerned is basically a wash. Six and six will be an accomplishment. I know this: No more BBVA Compass Bowls for UK Football Fan.

As you can tell from the tone here, I am not happy with the direction the program is going. The Cats looked like a poorly coached team a good portion of the year. Slow starts, silly penalties, guys (pun intended) way out of position in pass defense. When Steve Brown admitted that he didn't like to blitz because the team usually screwed it up, I knew something was wrong. Special teams remain a disaster, and we have two 4 star QBs entering their Junior years who aren't yet SEC starter calibur. Beyond coaching, I'm now convinced that UK is never going to devote the resources to the football program it needs to in order to be a top tier program. Part of that is lack of funding, part a lack of will, and part the albatross that is Kentucky Basketball. Finally, the loss of Cobb is a will zapping moment for this program. It isn't just the fact that he's leaving, it is that no one can come up with a decent reason why he shouldn't. (Parenthetically, I think this is Cobb's only move, he is doing the right thing, and I wish him nothing but the best)

So, am I giving up? Hell no. This is my team. I've spent some time over the last week thinking what it would be like to follow a good program that went to BCS Bowl, competed for conference championships and occasionally played for a national title. Could I just pick a team, say Texas, and decide that is my team? But we all know that isn't how this works. You have to come by these things orgaincally, and my love for UK Football is about as organic as it gets. I used to feel like there was something noble about following a team that you know is probably never going to get over the hump. But really it is a morally neutral thing to do. Sure, it is easier to root for a good team, but no one is forcing me not to. In fact, it is a kind of Zen. It just is.

As I've said, however, I am giving up UK Football Fan. My disappointment in this year is not a factor. The truth is, I have another writing project that has finally crystalized in my head. I didn't spend much time writing on the site this year, but whatever writing I do for fun is going to be put to what I hope will be better use over the next few months. Stay tuned. I'll maintain the UK Football Fan Facebook and Twitter accounts for occasional tidbits, but there will be no more columns. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Game Day

January 8th feels like a good morning for the penultimate UK Football Fan blog post. I've enjoyed doing this for the past three years, though obviously my interest waned as this season went on and posts became increasingly rare. I've ended the UK football season, though, as I have the four previous seasons, traveling to a bowl game in a southern city. This season the bowl crew is a little pared down. My son and I made the trip with my cousin, Appleton, who flew in from Denver and met us in Nashville, where his sister lives.
Last night we got out on the town a bit with Cats fans, though it sounds like most people were in an area, Five Points South, which we never found. I guess I should say we found it, but what we found didn't seem like a real happening spot to hit the town.
However that may have happened, this morning the Cats have a game to play. By now the story of Pitt's coaching woes are well chronicled. The Panthers fired Dave Wannestadt after the regular season. Wannstadt inherited a BCS team in 2004, and never managed to get back. Pitt. hired Miami(OH) coach and former Notre Dame assistant Mike Heywood, only to fire him 17 days later after he allegedly grabbed and injured his baby-mama.
When "head football coach" and "mother of one of his children" are in the same news story, it usually isn't good.
Of course, UK was not without drama over the months and a half layoff. Mike Hartline will miss the final game of his career after an alcohol related arrest. Morgan Newton will take the reins today in what might conservatively be called the most important three hours of his life so far. He needs to show this team he can be the man next year after losing a quarterback battle many assumed he'd run away with this year. Seeing him play well would be important for my confidence in next year's team. I think you can take big blue nation's temperature by how Newton plays today.
All in all, this is about the most unrest I've seen in UK's fanbase since the 2006 LSU loss. I agree that this team underachieved. With the SEC East ripe for plucking, we took a step backwards. A good performance today could go a long way to leaving a good taste in people's mouths.
Well, this rambling post wouldn't be complete without mentioning that this is likely to be Randall Cobb's last game as a Cat. His career deserves its own post, but suffice to say that I will miss watching the best UK player of my lifetime and whatever NFL team ends up with him becomes my second favorite overnight.
If you are going to the game today, we'll be in setion 36, row 46. Wave hello if you get a chance.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rough Weekend

As I'm sure many of you noticed, I basically quit posting at about the ninth week of the season, with little more than SEC bowl related posts through the end of the year. There are were several reasons for this; increased use of Twitter/Facebook to post shorter updates, plans to close the site down after the season anyway and a general lack of hits and links. But the most compelling reason is that I've lost faith in the staff and the administration and their ability to give us a product worth writing about in the short and long term. This year's team was incredibly frustrating to watch. The problems I observe seem to be systematic rather than simply relating to individual players.

This weekend didn't do anything to make me feel better. As everyone reading this now knows, fifth year senior Mike Hartline pissed the last game of his career away in a fit of drunken belligerence. Joker's swift justice would indicate that he lent some credence to the allegations involving violence. I feel terrible for Hartline, whose star crossed career deserves its own post. Right now however, I feel worse for Joker, who is losing his grip on the reins of the Wildcat sled.

This week Joker let two assistants go and announced that he'd be bringing in a co-defensive coordinator to work alongside Steve Brown. The latter sounded like a way of pushing Brown out the door politely. I certainly hope so. If UK really told candidates it wanted someone to work alongside someone whose unit completely failed this year, they cut themselves off right at the knees.

Saturday hit, and word came via Twitter that Rick Minter and Steve Pardue (we'll get to them in a minute) were at practice in UK gear. We had apparently filled our two vacancies. At the same time Chip Cosby, Matt May and Brett Dawson were tweeting about the Minter/Pardue sightings, Larry Vaught (who was not at practice) was reporting that recently fired but highly respected former Miami Head Coach would come to UK as the DC. Though Shannon was reportedly contacted early in the week, it sounded to me like fan base appeasement. Truth is, Shannon was likely to land on his feet with a near million dollar gig and clearly UK isn't going to pay that for a coordinator. That this was actually going to happen was huge, and a sign that Joker had more juice than perhaps we realized.

This being Kentucky, Vaught later tweeted that his sources were wrong and that Minter (who is currently the linebacker's coach at Indiana State) would indeed become the DC. This news was bad enough, but it was only the tip of the bitter cold iceberg.

Urban Favre's mid-week decision to quit at Florida for the second year in a row provided good theatre for Cats fans. I was thrilled to have that evil bastard out of the SEC East, don't get me wrong. But I was giddy about the prospect Meyer would be replaced by the coach of one of UK perennial opponents. Louisville's Charlie Strong seemed like a possibility. Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, however, seemed like the logical choice. Louavull and MSU aren't just perennial opponents, they are swing opponents. Along with Vanderbilt (we'll get to them in a minute) and South Carolina, they form the set of schools we need to beat consistently if we ever want to get to "the next level". I'd love for Mississippi State or Louisville to lose their coach and have to start over.

On Saturday, the Gators got their man in Texas Defensive Coordinator and former Coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp. Many are questioning the hire. Not me. Muschamp is young, incredibly passionate and has an impeccable coaching pedigree. He is likely to bring in Major Applewhite as his OC. They'll outwork everyone on the field, own every living room and Florida will continue to be Florida. Mullen and Strong, evidently, will stay put. I'd guess that Mullen was induced to stay by more money and promises from MSU to continue to invest in their program. Not good news for the Cats, whose administration would not have done the same thing if Joker had been the hot commodity. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but we don't know because no one has tried to steal UK's Head Coach for a better job since Christ was a corporal.

Remember now, this all went down in one day. Rumor has it now that Shannon will replace Muschamp as the DC at Texas. Whether that happens remains to be seen. Right now all I see is speculation. But here is some more speculation. It is entirely possible that Shannon was ready to come to Kentucky as its coordinator but backed out when it became clear that Texas had the same vacancy. One could hardly blame Shannon, it is a much better job. Still, the thought that it might have gone down that way stings. How much better off would we be if Mullen bolted Mississippi State for Florida, and we had a DC who could recruit Florida like almost nobody else in college football?

Today added further insult to injury as some outlets are reporting that Vandy has hired Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn as its head guy (reports conflict as some say it isn't a done deal). I'm not as worried about Malzahn as I am what his hire represents. (After all, coaching genius and having Cam Newton running your offense can be easily confused). Vandy supposedly broke the bank and will pay Gus $3million per. If it is willing to pay that, and Malzahn is willing to come, it obviously intends to upgrade its program substantially. Keep in mind this is high tier SEC money, almost twice Joker's salary. Today ESPN's David Pollock observed via Twitter that while Malzahn will "succeed", success at Vandy is 2-3 SEC wins a year and a bowl trip. Great point. Here is another one: if Vandy can consistently win 2-3 SEC games a year, many of those wins are going to be against you know who.

All of which leads me to one conclusion. While the rest of the SEC is moving forward, we are standing still, at best. Rick Minter was indeed the linebacker coach at Indiana State this year. In fairness, has has also been a defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and South Carolina, as well as the head guy at Cincinnati for several years. He is I'm sure a fine coach. He is also a retread who is being rescued from the downside of a career. I know nothing about Pardue, other than that he was the head coach of UK feeder high school LaGrange (Ga.) for a number of years. He was probably due this shot with us.

Perhaps I'm making too big a deal out of a series of things that were almost completely outside of UK's control. But the truth is that this weekend leaves me feeling the way I often feel about UK Football. Even though we seem only inches away at times, they are inches we are destined never to get.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Final SEC Bowl Projections

Here are my final SEC Bowl projections, based in part on Twitter and Internet chatter I gathered yesterday but without consultation with anyone else's final picks. Apparently, the Outback Bowl is going all mercenary and will disappointingly go with a crumbling Florida squad over at least 2 more qualified teams. This sends South Carolina (who deserved a better fate) to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. The buzz is that the Gator will take 6-6 but surging UT in what can only be described as a New Year's Day gift. The big loser is Mississippi State, which will be rewarded for its best season in recent memory by a mundane trip to the Music City Bowl. If that rodgering doesn't send Dan Mullen into Miami's waiting arms, I don't know what will.
The other big loser in that scenario is our Cats and their beleaguered fanbase, who must now live with the knowledge that a win over a pitiful Tennessee squad probably would have put them in Florida (albeit Jacksonville) on New Year's Day. As it is, there will be no change in the Cats' destination.

National Championship
Auburn v. Oregon

Sugar
Arkansas v. Ohio State

Capital One
Alabama v. Michigan State

Cotton
LSU v. Texas A&M

Outback
Florida v. Michigan

Chick-Fil-A
USC v. Florida State

Gator
UT v. Iowa

Music City
Mississippi State v. North Carolina

Liberty
Georgia v. UCF

BBVA Compass
UK v. South Florida

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Quick Preview

Today isn't about the Tennessee Volunteers. It is about Joker Phillips and the Kentucky Wildcats. If the Cats come ready to play and put together 60 minutes of decent football, they win and end the streak. They don't need to play perfectly, or even great, for the entire game. But they have to show up when the bell rings and avoid first half disaster. It is that cut and dried.

Sounds easy enough, but as Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast, my friend". Truth is, through 11 games of the Phillips era the Cats have proven totally incapable of showing up to play. And the more important the game, the less ready to play they've been. It isn't just missed tackles, no pass rush and fumbles. It is blown assignments, false starts and not getting lined up correctly. In short, it are things that relate to effort and discipline. Which means they relate to coaching.

Kentucky exercised some demons with a huge (and quite fortunate) win over South Carolina. We could exercise a lot more today. This season could still end with four straight wins, two big streaks ending, and another nice bowl trophy. But if we don't win today, one big takeaway from 2010 will be my fear that Joker Phillips teams don't answer the bell.

Play hard and smart for 60 minutes. Win. Don't, and we'll be waiting at least another year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nov. 21 Pundits Projections

This past weekend in college football was weird because a lot of interesting things almost happened, but none did. LSU, Ohio State and Michigan State almost played themselves out of BCS contention, but didn't. Ole Miss almost got into the bowl conversation, but didn't. Mississippi State almost layed claim to a special season, but didn't. UCLA almost showed up to play, but didn't. The list goes on. Anyway, as of this morning, here is where The People Who Do This For A Living believe the Cats are going bowling, along with brief tidbits about how they got us there:

ESPN.COM Andrea Adelson
Liberty Bowl v. UCF (Adelson apparently believes that we will lose to UT and still make the Liberty. She has Georgia in the Birmingham Bowl and UT going to the MAACO bowl in Las Vegas. Adelson has Oregon v. Boise St. in the National Championship and has only one SEC team in the BCS)

ESPN.COM Mark Schlabach
Birmingham Bowl v. South Florida (As with his collegue, Schlabach predicts a UK loss, and has UT and Georgia both ahead of us in the pecking order. Schlabach has Auburn in the National Championship and LSU in the Sugar, leaving an SEC spot for the Cats)

ESPN.COM Chris Low
Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl v. MAC team (The WWL's outstanding SEC blogger has UK losing to UT and falling out of the SEC bowl picture entirely. Low projects Alabama beating Auburn and only one SEC team in the BCS)

CFN Scout
Birmingham Bowl v. Syracuse (Again, CFN gives UT the win and a better bowl, places Georgia in the Liberty and preserves the bottom SEC rung for UK by virtue of projecting 2 SEC schools into the BCS. Going against the grain, CFN has Auburn in the National Championship, and what would apparently be a 3 loss Alabama team in the Sugar)

SI.Com Stewart Mandel
Music City Bowl v. North Carolina (Mandel bucks conventional wisdom and has UK beating UT. He also puts Auburn in NCG and LSU in Sugar. As a consequence, he does not have the SEC even filling its slots).

MSNBC John Temanaha
Birmingham v. South Florida (John's picks are a little wild. He has Auburn tumbling to both Alabama and South Carolina, sending USC to the Sugar. He then places LSU in the Orange above TCU, making him the only pundit to believe that the SEC will get 2 in the BCS without Auburn making the National Championship.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Week 12 SEC Bowl Projections

SEC bowl slotting continues to hinge largely on whether the conference gets 2 teams into BCS Bowls. As I've mentioned in previous posts, if Auburn wins the Iron Bowl the SEC will almost assuredly get 2 in. If Alabama wins, it most likely will not. With that in mind, I'll run 2 sets of projections. These picks are predicated on Georgia beating Georgia Tech, Mississippi failing to gain bowl eligibility and Tennessee doing so by winning out, including defeating UK.

Important: (If you are reading this later, this was posted before any results of the November 20th games)

Auburn wins:

National Championship
Auburn

Sugar
LSU

Capital One
Alabama

Cotton
Arkansas

Ouback
South Carolina

Chick-Fil-A
Mississippi State

Gator
Florida

Music City
Tennessee

Liberty
Kentucky

Birmingham
Georgia


Auburn loses to Alabama

Sugar
Auburn

Capital One
LSU

Cotton
Alabama

Outback
Arkansas

Chick-Fil-A
South Carolina

Gator
Florida

Music City
Tennessee

Liberty
Mississippi State

Birmingham
Georgia

Maaco-Las Vegas Dec 22, 8pm (replaces PAC-10 team)
UK

Discuss.

Monday, November 15, 2010

UK Bowl Projection Contingencies

The Cats secured bowl eligibility with a shaky but ultimately satisfying win over Vandy on Saturday. There is an awful lot of uncertainty still about where the Cats may land. With USC winning over Florida, there is now no chance that the Cats land above the Tennessee tier of bowls. With UT winning easily over Ole Miss, and apparently finding its savior on Quarterback Tyler Bray, they are now a sexy pick to win out (@Vandy, UK) and gain bowl eligibility.

Assuming that is how it plays out, that would leave the SEC with three 6-6 teams (assuming Georgia can beat Georgia Tech at home on 11/27). Presumably, these three teams would fill the final 3 bowl spots in Nashville, Memphis and Birmingham. Unless the SEC only gets one team in the BCS, in which case there will only be two bowls for these three schools to go to.

In other words, UK is bowl eligible, but it is not guaranteed to go to a bowl. There are and endless number of "outs" though, that make a bowl trip a near certainty. Here are all the things that could happen, any one of which would land UK in a bowl:

1. Beating Tennessee. This is the easy one. This puts us at 7-5, knocks UT out, and puts us in either the Liberty or Music City.

2. Vandy beats UT at home. LSU takes care of business against Ole Miss. This guarantees there are enough spots for the Cats whether we beat UT or not. Frankly, I do not see Vandy pulling this off. They are truly awful.

3. Auburn beats Alabama and LSU wins out. Assuming Auburn beats Alabama, it is a lock for a BCS bowl (barring #5 below). If it goes to the National Championship, a one loss LSU is a lock for the Sugar.

4. Auburn beats Alabama, loses SEC Championship. This puts USC in the Sugar but makes a one loss Auburn almost a sure bet for another BCS bowl.

5. Cam Newton declared ineligible before SEC Championship game. If Auburn forfeits all of its wins, everyone moves up a notch.

6. Georgia loses to Georgia Tech on 11/27. The Dogs would sit at 5-7 and could not go to a bowl.

7. UK gets invited to a bowl ahead of UT or Georgia. I'd say this one is a total crapshoot. If UT beats UK, it will have a better league record and will be riding a three game streak on the back of a new QB. UT has not had a disappointing season when you get down to it. They were supposed to be god awful. Georgia is Georgia, and would seem to be a much better pull. If the Birmingham Bowl had to choose between us, well, Birmingham is close to practically all of Georgia. As little as Cats fans would want of U of L rematch in this game, the possibility of putting that game together in Birmingham might save the Cats' skin if none of these other contingencies work out.

8. Cats are invited to a bowl game outside the SEC chain. Every year there are conferences that cannot fill their bowl allotments. When this happens, bowls must fill slots with either a conference with which is has an existing agreement, then must take any 7 team, then may take a 6 win team. You are truly looking at scraps at this point. . . . .unless. . . .unless, Kentucky can take the Pac-1o's spot in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas on December 22. They are practically giving hotel rooms away in Vegas that week and you can get there from SDF pretty darned reasonably. However, if it plays out this way, my guess is you'll be much more likely to see UK taking on a MAC team in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit on December 26th.

As UK Football Fans know, it is a cruel, cruel world.

More on the pundits' predictions and my actual projections in separate posts.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This is it.

Quick post.
* This is a must win game for Joker. Vandy is weak, depleated and isn't playing for anything. It is our senior day and we are playing for a bowl berth. If the Cats cannot secure this victory it will be one of the worst losses in Commonwealth imaginable.

*If there is any justice in the world, Commonwealth will give Mike Hartline a send-off for the ages today. He has earned it.

*The thought that this might be Randall Cobb's last home game makes me physically ill. I wasn't expecting this to be an issue, which in retrospect was pretty naive.

*DeQuin Evans deserves to have a good game. I thought Trevard Lindley had a tough senior year. DeQuin's makes Trevard's look like a Heisman campaign.

*I'm glad that Derrick Locke is going to be able to go on senior day, but outside of actually winning the game, the next most important thing from a tactical standpoint would be for us to get through today without him being reinjured.

*Trying breakfast burritos in my Orange lot tailgate this morning. If I can avoid poisoning my family, it should be a good day. My friend Lee said it. There is zero reason to lose this game. Zero.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Last Game For Cobb?

The internet is abuzz today with conjecture that this coming Saturday will be Randall Cobb's last game at Commonwealth. Selfishly, I hope that isn't true. But the truth is, I have no idea whether leaving is a good idea for Cobb or not. Here is what I do know:

1. Cobb has nothing left to prove as a college player. At least from a pro scout perspective, Cobb has done about all he can do on the field to show he can play football. Elusiveness, balance, smarts, toughness and big play ability. It has all been on display. If you had to pick nits, I suppose you could say that he could return and show he is a little more surehanded. But you might as well be looking for flaws on Jennifer Anniston.

2. Cobb is a certain type of player, and another year of college will not change that. At 5'10" 190 without game breaking speed, Cobb will make his way in the NFL as a slot receiver and probably punt returner. He isn't a prototypical #1 guy, but I would not put it past him to have Wes Welker or Hines Ward's career. I'd take that, wouldn't you? He isn't going to get faster or appreciably bigger in the intervening year, so the die is pretty well cast as far as his upside.

3. The decisions of others may dictate whether Cobb leaves this year. AJ Green and Julio Jones will almost assuredly leave this year and will probably be the first two recevers drafted when they do leave. Cobb may also want to know what some other top flight guys such as Notre Dame's Michael Floyd and Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles will do. All are juniors, and if many go, Cobb might improve his stock by waiting a year. This year's sophomore class isn't nearly as stacked. On the other hand, if a lot of the other juniors will stay put, it might be time to boogie.

4. Cobb has compelling reasons to return. The twitter fit notwithstanding, Cobb seems to recognize his place in the hearts of the Big Blue Nation and at least based on his Tweets seems to enjoy college and is happy here. He is arguably the best player in program history. If he returns for his senior season and produces consistently, it erases all doubt. How many people can say that they are the best football player in the history of an SEC school? Those guys have names like Manning, Walker and Jackson. That is a club to aspire to.
There is also the matter of Cobb obtaining a degree. This isn't basketball. A pro football player, especially a non-star, has a week to week existence. The average career lasts fewer than three years and no part of a salary except a signing bonus is guaranteed. Also, football offers many more coaching opportunities for former players than do other sports. A degree is a necessity for a college assistant.

5. Cobb has compelling reasons not to return. Randall has given his heart and soul to the program for three years. Though UK has seemed close to turning the corner a couple of times, it hasn't quite happened. It could happen next year, but there is no particular reason to believe it will. Cobb is probably looking at another 7-5 or 6-6 season ending with a bowl he has already played in for his senior year. He has taken an incredible amount of punishment. At his size, he only has a certain number of hits left in his body. Every one he takes next year is one he isn't getting paid for. Also, it would appear that every Cat who has had the chance to leave early and returned has fallen in the process. After seeing Trevard fall out of the first round and Micah go completely undrafted, could anyone blame Cobb for striking while the iron is hot.

6. This decision might be best made by consulting a stopwatch. The knock on Cobb has always been a lack of top end speed. I've never seen him caught from behind. He looks plenty fast to me. But what do I know. Cobb reportedly ran a 4.43 forty at last year's UK Pro Day. If he has those wheels in the combine (and this includes the bar of injury) he is safely in the middle rounds of the draft (maybe as high as a late 2) and safely making an NFL team. No matter when he leaves. On the other hand, if he is more in the range of 4.60-4.65, I could see him falling and things get dicey. If the latter is the case, Cobb would be wise to come back, get his degree, and try to collect a couple more SEC scalps.

7. I'll be very sad if Randall Cobb is not playing football at Kentucky next year.

8. But I will not blame him one bit.
 
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