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Cobb's touches, risk of injury a balancing act for UK coaches

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Randall Cobb did not practice Tuesday morning with a shoulder injury. He left Nutter Field House early and headed back to the Nutter Training Facility, presumably for the ice bags and treatment.

All 188 pounds of Cobb's 5-foot-11 frame is bruised and battered at this point. He's battled nagging injuries all season long, including a groin injury, a hamstring strain, a sprained left thumb and the latest shoulder injury.

Yet when he's on the field, there is arguably nobody better. In terms of value, Joker Phillips, head coach of the offense, thinks he might be the best in the Southeastern Conference.

FB 09_10 UK_Vandy Web 74.jpg"I think he and (Derrick) Locke are probably the two most underrated players in the league," Phillips said. "He's the most valuable player and I think Locke might be the most underrated player in the league."

There's no doubt that when Cobb has the ball in his hands, the Cats are a better team. He changes the way defenses prepare for the Cats and he opens up the UK offense for other players. Just this last Saturday Cobb accounted for 167 all-purpose yards, including 99 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.

"He can throw the ball in the Wildcat package, he can run the ball in the Wildcat package. When you split out wide, you've got to cover down on him," Phillips said. "Usually you see linebackers come out there and they get halfway between him and the line of scrimmage so they can still be able to play the run, but with him you've got to get all the way out there on top of him."

But Phillips, who calls the plays for the UK offense, faces a particularly tough situation. As dynamic and as highly successful as Cobb has been with the ball in his hands, UK can't continue to let its most treasured commodity take the type of punishment Cobb has had to endure.

"We can't have Randall take every snap in the Wildcat," head coach Rich Brooks said. "It is impossible to take that kind of body blows."

Cobb would be the first to tell you he wants the ball more. He's as competitive and as fiery of a leader as you'll find on any football team, all the more reason why the UK coaches have to pull the reins back on him a little bit.

"It's tough," Phillips said. "You give him the ball and you're giving it to him too much; you don't give him the ball and you're not getting him enough touches. You've got to try to find a happy medium. You've got to try to win the game. Late in the (Vanderbilt) game we decided we probably need to sit him. We said let's get him out and not carry him anymore and let's pound Moncell (Allen). Those are the things you've got to do. You've got to be smart and not give him the ball when the game is decided."

Despite missing a game this season with a thumb injury, Cobb has touched the ball 127 times (includes rushing attempts, receptions, kick returns, punt returns and passes), far more than most players in the league.

But when he does get it, good things generally happen. Cobb has accounted for 1,379 yards of UK's 3,512 total yards, or 39.3 percent of the offense. He ranks third in the SEC in all-purpose yards with 148.1 yards per game, second in scoring with 12 touchdowns and averages 9.2 yards per play whenever the ball is in his hands.

It's a catch-22 for the UK coaches. If they give the ball to him too much, they run the risk of injuring the team's most explosive and dynamic player. If they don't, the team clearly isn't as productive.

"He's a warrior," Phillips said of Cobb. "He's played a lot of plays and the thing about it is a lot of the plays that he's playing in he's getting hit. He plays the inside receiver so he's having to go in and dig out linebackers and block them when he doesn't have the ball. He's not only a good football player, he's a tough football player too."

It never ceases to amaze Phillips what Cobb has been able to do. Whether it's returning kicks for touchdowns, running the Wildcat package to near perfection or standing on the sidelines with a headset on to fire up his team like he did during the Eastern Kentucky game, Phillips isn't sure if there is a thing Cobb can't do.

"I'm not sure of that. I'm not sure what he can't do," Phillips said. "Everything we've asked him to do, he's done it and done it better than we've thought he can do."

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Cobb should be the race for the heisman next year

Cats are lucky to have such a valuable commodity like Cobb!!! Thanks to Randall for giving his all to the CATS! So proud of the way our football team competes on a weekly basis. They are highly underrated and overlooked in the SEC but everyone knows we're on a steady track to success thanks to Coach Brooks, Coach Phillips and their staff! Go Big Blue!!!

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