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A tale(back) of two freshmen: Taylor, Mobley ready to compete

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A native of Atlanta, Justin Taylor is among the most highly rated players among UK's incoming freshmen. (Chet White, UK Athletics) A native of Atlanta, Justin Taylor is among the most highly rated players among UK's incoming freshmen. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Leading up to football media day on August 3, Cat Scratches will be spotlighting a few of Kentucky's freshmen to help introduce fans to the newest bunch of Wildcats. Next up is a duo of talent running backs, Justin Taylor out of Atlanta, Ga., and Dyshawn Mobley from Powell, Tenn. 

Justin Taylor and Dyshawn Mobley are each members of a highly regarded 2012 recruiting class for the Kentucky football team. But the winding roads that led them to the same destination came from opposite directions.

Each player figures to add depth to a stable of running backs, and whether or not they see much playing time this year is anyone's guess. Last season, Kentucky relied on every bit of its depth at the position just to keep healthy bodies on the field after several bites from injury bug. But each of Taylor and Mobley sound like they are ready and eager for the opportunity to compete at the highest level.

Not only are the coaches and fans excited about this fresh crop of rookies now donning the Blue and White, but these two freshman recognize how special of a group they can be. It's something they talk about on a daily basis.

"We talk about it all the time," said Mobley, "Like what big impact we can make on the team if we get in, learn the system, and let the seniors show us the role playing in the (Southeastern Conference). When they help us, we'll be pretty good."

They are a focused group that feels they can be immediate contributors to the program. That remains to be seen, but the attitude of a competitor should fall in line with those sentiments. 

"This freshman class is great," said Taylor. "I feel great about this class. We're strong-minded. Right now, I feel like at least half of us can come in and make an impact on this program. But I love this class."

Taylor figures to be 100 percent by the time Kentucky steps on the turf for the first time as a team for training camp after tearing his ACL his senior year. He had been an Alabama commitment since February 2011.

Alabama, however, had concerns about his knee, and they hoped to gray shirt the talented in-coming freshman with the hopes of him enrolling in the 2013 school year. Though Alabama was willing to wait on Taylor, waiting was not an option for Taylor.

"When (Alabama) decided to gray shirt me," said Taylor, 'I thought about it as 'I'm the first person in my family to graduate high school and go to college, so I can't sit and wait.' I don't know what I can do at home. I could get fat. I could not work out like I wanted to, so I had to make the best decision for my family."

Kentucky threw its hat into the ring for one of the most talented running backs in the class and a personal interest in Taylor and his health helped push the Wildcats over the top just days before National Signing Day.

"I wanted to play," said Taylor. "But (Kentucky) didn't talk about a gray shirt. They didn't talk about a red shirt. They didn't talk about playing me. They talked about taking care of my knee. That was the most important thing...When Kentucky came, they put out their plan for me, I was like, 'They really want me here at their school.' It felt like a family here."

When Taylor faxed in his Letter of Intent, it was one of the biggest surprises in the recruiting circles that day, and Kentucky could not have been more pleased with the news. 

While Taylor had dreams of playing for the defending BCS Champions at Alabama, his new teammate never thought he would be playing for the best conference in college football. Mobley was not even sure he would be playing Division I football at all.

Dyshawn Mobley rushed for 3,068 yards and 46 touchdowns during his senior season at Powell High School. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Dyshawn Mobley rushed for 3,068 yards and 46 touchdowns during his senior season at Powell High School. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Mobley had a monstrous senior season in which he rushed for 46 touchdowns and set a single-season state rushing record with 3,068 yards on just 251 carries. It earned him the title of Mr. Football in the state of Tennessee. He helped lead Powell High School to its first State Championship game in 5A since 1991, which garnered him interest from other SEC schools. But an early bond and relationship created with the Kentucky coaching staff kept Mobley loyal to his word.

"On my official visit, I met so many nice people," said Mobley. "I've never been a place that I've met so many nice people. That's why I stuck with Kentucky...I trust Coach Joker (Phillips) and that's the main reason I stuck with him."

But playing at the SEC level was not always on his radar. In fact, until some motivation and encouragement from his high school coach, Mobley didn't even know if he would play Division I football at the college level. Football was always on his mind, but what the future held for him was anyone's guess.

"I didn't know I could go D-1," said Mobley, "But I knew could definitely go play college football. But I just didn't know it would SEC football."

The confidence that his head coach had in him helped him see just what type of player he could be if he put forth the right effort.

"Matt Lowe, my head coach, he basically (said), 'You can go play ball at the college level if you really try hard,' " said Mobley. "He just stayed on me and was like, 'Do your work. Do your work.' After awhile he didn't have to because I just kept it up."

Academics were the biggest concern when it came to playing at the next level. Lowe never questioned Mobley's ability, but he would have to start focusing on his schoolwork in order to be eligible. He knows that if he hopes to have a collegiate career, doing well in the classroom is of the utmost importance.

"My high school career helped me a lot," said Mobley. "Because at the end of my high school career, I started kicking in because I knew I could go somewhere and play college ball. Grades were very important, so I had to get on top of that. Finished the year off strong, and now I come into college and finish this summer semester strong."

Now Mobley just hopes to prove to everyone that he belongs, both on and off the field. 

"I just wanted to finish my senior season strong," said Mobley. "Of course there's going to be doubters. There's always going to be doubters, but I just wanted to show everybody that I could play ball and that I could play in the SEC, and that's where I'm at now."

Now, both he and Taylor are there, despite separate paths that led them both to Lexington. While their stories differ, their games are eerily similar. They both bring an element to the table that the Kentucky running attack hasn't seen much of over the last several years: power. 

UK has had its share of speed backs in the past that have done extremely well: Rafael Little, Derrick Locke, Alfonso Smith just to name a few. But true downhill power backs like Mobley and Taylor have been few and far between in recent history. They now come in as part of the same class.

"Yes, I am a downhill running back, but we call it old school style," said Taylor. "I get the ball and go north and south. I'm shifty a little bit, but I don't really show it on the field because I don't want to get injured like my senior year. But other than that, I'm a downhill type of guy. I like to run people over. I like that first contact and I like to keep my legs moving."

They know they have an opportunity to change the running game at Kentucky and make a real impact on the program. They are guys that look for contact, trying to deliver the first blow and fight for yardage going north and south rather than trying to get around the corner. It's a mentality that they each take pride in. 

"I'm just a physical runner," said Mobley, who Phillips said has deadlifted close to 700 pounds. "I love contact, and I'm pretty sure I can break a lot of arm tackles. I'm really just physical."

Taylor and Mobley have already began to form a relationship, understanding their similar running styles. 

"(Taylor)'s definitely more of a bowling ball, he likes to run people over," said Mobley. "I'd rather just give them a little move and then take it on up. I can definitely run people over too and I love to run between the tackles."

If everything holds true during their careers at Kentucky, these two dynamic running backs will be teammates for the next four years, competing with and against each other. Though Kentucky boasts several running backs with SEC experience, these two players could see time sooner rather than later. 

Kentucky still is a speed-heavy team when it comes to its cabinet of running backs, so Mobley's and Taylor's running style could give them a leg up on its competition. But no matter when they play, they are both here, at Kentucky, after long journeys to the Bluegrass.

Joker Phillips and company couldn't be happier. SEC defenses may feel differently.

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