NOTEBOOK: WKU preparing for Cobb, explosive UK offense

NOTEBOOK: WKU preparing for Cobb, explosive UK offense

Zach Greenwell

WKU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen hadn’t seen very much of Kentucky junior wide receiver/quarterback Randall Cobb until this week.

But after seeing some film of the versatile Cobb, Bowen’s praise rose quickly.

“I didn’t know anything about him,” Bowen said. “He’s got to be one of the best players in the nation. There can’t be a guy at the SEC level that does more for his team than that kid. He earns his scholarship – that guy is the real deal.”

Cobb rushed for 573 yards and 10 touchdowns last season while also collecting 447 yards and four scores as a receiver.

He caught two passes in Kentucky’s 23-16 win at Louisville last weekend but was most effective from the Wildcat – or WildCobb, as it’s known in Lexington – where he rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown.

“Of course, their go-to guy is Randall Cobb,” junior safety Mark Santoro said. “They’re going to give him the ball however they can, whether it’s the Wildcat, throwing the ball or him out at receiver.”

The Toppers will also have to contend with senior running back Derrick Locke, who rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns against Louisville. Locke ran for 34 yards and returned a kickoff for a 100-yard score against WKU in 2008 – a play Santoro remembers vividly.

“That game – one thing I remember – it was like 10-3 and we were kicking off, and then Locke took one back on us on a kickoff return,” he said. “That kind of changed the whole momentum of the game going into the half. He can fly, so we’re going to have to contain him.

“I think it’ll be fun to see them for the second time, and hopefully we can get back at them.”

Redshirt freshman receiver Jamarielle Brown took the role of Cobb on WKU’s scout team during Tuesday’s practice, although Head Coach Willie Taggart said that freshman running back Antonio Andrews will play the part for the rest of the week. Andrews had to miss Tuesday’s practice because of a required freshman assembly, according to Taggart.

But no matter which impostor tries to imitate Cobb this week, Santoro said the Toppers plan on being prepared for the real deal.

“It’s just a little thing that you’ve got to prepare for, but through the week we’ll be sprinkling it in, and I think we have a good game plan to go against it,” Santoro said of the Wildcat offense. “When we see Cobb back there, I think we’ll be ready.”

Tuning out the hype

Taggart said he wasn’t overly pleased with Tuesday’s effort, claiming it wasn’t a “winning practice.”

Taggart said he feared that the players had become too complacent, buying into the talk about some of their high points at Nebraska.

“I don’t know if these guys listened to people say, ‘You guys did okay against Nebraska. You did some good things,’” Taggart said. “We’re not happy with moral victories around here. We’re not going to settle, and guys don’t need to be happy with getting a pat on the back.”

Taggart said it’s important for WKU to remember that it still lost by 39 points in Lincoln, Neb., and that at the end of the day, there’s still plenty of work to do.

“We haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “We started the season and showed flashes, but flashes aren’t going to win you a championship. You have to do it all the time.”

The biggest concern for the coaching staff after Nebraska was tackling, and although WKU made strides to improve it Tuesday, Bowen said one day will never be a cure-all.

“It’s still not where it needs to be,” Bowen said. “First game it’s always a concern, but it showed up more than it should have. Until we learn to get off the blocks, run really fast to the ball and tackle people when we get there, it doesn’t matter what you do.

“When you play a team of that caliber, you can’t make those mistakes because they take advantage of bad footwork and bad fundamentals.”

Taggart pulling positives from Joker

Taggart was asked to elaborate on his relationship with Kentucky Head Coach Joker Phillips at Tuesday’s practice, and said the two are close enough to feel comfortable “bouncing ideas off each other” if need be.

“We don’t call each other every day, but if I need anything or have a question, I can always call Joker, and the same thing for him,” Taggart said.

Taggart said he wasn’t just impressed with the way Phillips recruited when he first met him. He said Phillips had presence on the recruiting trail, and it’s still something he’s worked to build for himself.

“I always try to take something from someone that’s doing something well, and he was doing it well when I started coaching,” Taggart said. “He was recruiting, and when he went to schools, everyone said, ‘There’s Joker Phillips.’ I said to myself that I want that one day. I want to walk in and hear, ‘There’s Willie Taggart.’

“It wasn’t happening back then, but it’s starting to happen now, and that’s something I want. I saw the effect he had on others, and I thought it was positive.”