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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