Cobb leads class of impact freshmen

Rich Brooks has never been shy about playing true freshmen.

Around the country, coaches have differing opinions on playing kids fresh from high school campuses, but in rebuilding the UK program, true freshmen like running back Rafael Little and linebacker Wesley Woodyard have played key roles from their first days in Lexington.

That’s why, with UK facing a small-scale rebuilding year in 2008, much of the offseason buzz has been about newcomers Randall Cobb, Aaron Boyd and other young freshmen. As soon as one player leaves, his replacement is often searched for, leading fans and coaches looking for the next Keenan Burton and Andre Woodson.

Being a new face on a college campus is a difficult task for almost all students, with classes of more than 200 students in unknown buildings. But at least two newcomers to the UK football team are looking to make an atypical splash this season, even if they’re still nervous.

“I didn’t get much sleep at first,” said Cobb, who is expected to see time at quarterback, wide receiver and on special teams. “I had lots of excitement, looking around and remembering all the fans I saw.”

Cobb is one of a handful of incoming freshmen looking to make a quick impact for the Cats this season.

Aaron Boyd, Matt Roark, Gene McCaskill and Eric Adeyemi are all vying for a spot at wide receiver, where the depth chart is wide open after senior Dicky Lyons Jr. and junior DeMoreo Ford.

Cobb is already slated as sophomore quarterback Mike Hartline’s clear backup, possibly even seeing significant snaps at that position vacated by the dismissal of Curtis Pulley. When Cobb isn’t practicing at quarterback, coaches are working him into the rotation at wide receiver.

Brooks has said that he expects to play between seven and 10 true freshmen and so far, UK’s newcomers are making the progress necessary to see the field.

Other impact freshmen include Matt Smith, who was moved to center in order to back-up starter Jorge Gonzalez, and Cartier Rice, who could see time at defensive back.

Reports out of fall practice have indicated that freshman linebacker Danny Trevathan has pushed his way into the conversation at middle linebacker, where defensive coordinator Steve Brown is still trying to build depth after Braxton Kelley’s switch to the outside.

Boyd and Cobb are the headliners out of the current freshmen class. From the moment each stepped on campus, they were pegged as impact players. That’s led to high expectations from both fans and coaches. And that’s OK with Cobb.

“You always have to put high expectations for yourself anyway,” Cobb said.

Preseason magazines and national media list Boyd as one of the top-10 impact freshmen in the entire Southeastern Conference. Boyd knows about those lists and is pushing himself to become better to live up to the expectations.

“I expect nothing less than great from myself,” Boyd said. “Looking around the Internet, I’ve seen myself as an impact player and I expect that.”

Boyd missed part of fall practice after suffering from mononucleosis. He returned to practice last week, but only participated for non-contact drills. His status for the Louisville game is unclear.

While the expectations, both for themselves and those put on them, may be high, the goal for the talented freshmen remain the same as the rest of the team.

“I’m coming in to help the team get an SEC championship and a (Bowl Championship Series) bid,” Cobb said.