Happy to be Blue

HOOVER, Ala. - He has heard the question so many times that he probably could answer it in his sleep: Why didn't a guy who grew up in nearby Alcoa sign with the Tennessee Vols?

Randall Cobb wasn't sleeping when he fielded the question during Wednesday's SEC Media Days, but it did rouse him a bit.

"That's a daily question," he said with a shrug. "It still is, and I don't understand why. I'm not there. I'm here. I'm where I want to be."

Supposedly, the Vols showed little interest in the 5-11 Cobb because they deemed him too short to play quarterback … only offering a scholarship after he'd committed to Kentucky.

Now a junior, Cobb says his decision to sign with the Big Blue was based on the honesty he sensed from head coach Rich Brooks, offensive coordinator Joker Phillips (now the head man) and quarterback coach Randy Sanders (now the offensive coordinator).

"The reason is the trust that I got from Coach Phillips, Coach Brooks and Coach Sanders," Cobb said. "I could trust them. Everything they said I knew wasn't sugar-coated. They were very straight-forward …. I knew they were going to give me a chance at quarterback, which I really wanted. I got my chance, I had fun with it, and I moved on."

How hard Tennessee recruited him is debatable but this much is not: Randall Cobb has developed into one of the SEC's most versatile weapons. He led Kentucky in receptions (39) and receiving yards (447) last season. He also led in yards per rush (6.1), punt-return yards (308) and punt-return average (12.8). He was second on the team in rushing yards (573) and in kickoff-return average (26.5).

Naturally, trying to play so many roles can be taxing – mentally and physically.

"It's tough because you have so much on your mind that you can't focus on one position," Cobb said. "The big thing this offseason is that we really focused on my receiver skills and me being more of a receiver and maybe a little bit of Wildcat quarterback."

Cobb recalls watching one of his childhood idols, Tee Martin, lead Tennessee to a national championship in 1998. As fate would have it, Martin now serves as receivers coach at Kentucky.

"He's always pushing me to get better, pushing my teammates to get better," Cobb said. "The biggest thing about me is I love negativity. I've told him I want him to be negative with me sometimes because that motivates me. And he's doing a great job of being negative sometimes."

Cobb compiled most of his rushing yards last fall as a shotgun quarterback in UK's Wildcat Package. He doesn't expect to line up behind center as much in 2010 as he did in 2009, however, because Kentucky's quarterback situation seems a little more stable than it was a year ago.

"We have three great quarterbacks that can make plays," he said. "We just have to find out who ‘That Guy' is."

As if being a standout receiver, shotgun quarterback, punt-return specialist and kickoff-return specialist isn't enough activity, Cobb recently asked Phillips about playing some defensive back this fall. The coach mumbled "We'll see," apparently thinking the player was joking. He wasn't.

"I'm not saying I should play the whole game both ways … just five to seven plays," Cobb said. "I love being out on the field, love doing different things. I just want to do whatever I can to help this team out."

Does he really think he'll be playing defense this fall?

"You never know," he said. "Hopefully, it comes. If not, I'll focus on the things I need to focus on."

When asked what position he plays best, Cobb answered without hesitation:

"Wherever you put me."

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