Mister Cobble has gained the coachig staff's praise for him maturation on and off the field
Cobble, all 330 pounds of him, and Rumph, he of the 300-pound club, weaved their way around Commonwealth Stadium at Kentucky's annual media day, holding an impromptu comedy hour while stalking potential targets. After nearly an hour on the hunt, the Cats' dynamic defensive tackle duo eyed freshmen wide receiver A.J. Legree talking to several reporters.
Cobble sidled up to one of the interviewers, reached out for the recorder in his hand and immediately thrust it into Legree's face. On the other side of the freshman was Rumph, who made faces and otherwise attempted to rattle one of his newest teammates in his first media session. Ultimately, Legree succumbed to the act, losing his composure and breaking into a wide smile and the two behemoths sauntered away while basking in another victory.
“That's my partner in crime right there,” Rumph said later.
For Kentucky to have a successful 2012 season the Cats' talented defensive tackles must show the same ability to stalk and defeat their opponents. Not since Corey Peters and Myron Pryor were plugging the line of scrimmage has Kentucky had a pair of interior linemen as gifted as Cobble and Rumph.
“We are beginning to look SEC-like up front,” defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. “Those are some pretty big cats.
“The good news is when you're trying to break in all new linebackers like we are it's good to have veteran girth and size and experience up front. Generally, your linebackers corps are as good a reflection of your front guys and when your front guys are playing good and we're breaking in new guys it makes it easier, covers them up a little better and makes less holes in there.”
Cobble and Rumph may not receive the publicity as many of their SEC contemporaries but the one thing most everyone can agree upon is the two juniors can match what the rest of the league puts out there on Saturday. The pair has played 36 career games with 16 starts, and had eerily similar statistics in 2011. Cobble managed 33 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack, while Rumph added 31 tackles and matched Cobble's three tackles for loss and one sack.
Donte Rumph has worked hard to get in better shape since arriving at Kentucky
Together, with a year of experience alongside one another, the Cats feel like they have the makings of a stout defensive front.
“Those guys have potential,” defensive line coach David Turner said. “They play well at times but potential is the fancy way of saying they ain't done it yet.
“It gives us a chance. Hopefully we can be better against the run with those two guys. Everything starts up front. If you can stop or limit the run and put our defense in situations where we can get after it on third down it helps. If you're always in 3rd-and-1, 3rd-and-2, it's a hard game to play. When those two guys are playing well it gives us a chance.”
Turner should know. The longtime coach has spent the past 11 seasons coaching in the Southeastern Conference at UK, Alabama, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. He's witnessed the league separate itself from the rest of the nation because of the difference in talent on the defensive line. Understanding how much talent Cobble and Rumph possess has led to the position coach routinely being the hardest on his pupils, who have received the message. Although their consistency sometimes suffers, the pair has made an effort to show more leadership on the field.
“To show how to walk the path you must walk the path yourself,” Cobble said. “(Teammates) have to see you doing the right things all the time. If they see you doing something opposite of what you're telling them to do they're not going to listen to you.
“It makes me want to work harder knowing that any time I fail, the people behind me are counting on me and I'm failing them too. It's like a house, we're at the bottom and if we fail, it won't hold up.”
Cobble and Rumph have more than enough personal experience to understand the importance of being committed to the cause. Cobble sat out the 2010 regular season because of academics, the result of getting caught up in the freedom college allows young men and women. Rumph arrived on campus after a year in prep school but was so out of shape it took him nearly two full years to reach a level of conditioning that allowed him to receive extensive playing time.
“When Donte first got here he was terribly out of shape, no joke,” offensive guard Larry Warford said. “But he's also been one of the hardest working lineman here on getting in shape. Donte is a physical guy, just huge, and still quick for his size. He's a monster out there.”
Turner lauded Cobble for his focus after being ruled academically ineligible.
“P.C. is a young man I'm proud of. He's matured in every aspect,” Turner said. “He's matured off the field in terms of academics, his accountability, being where he's supposed to be, handling his business. He's actually excelling now in the classroom, which we knew he could. A young man always has to decide what's important: enjoying college or understanding why he's in college. P.C. understands he has a great opportunity and has his priorities in line. His football part is a whole lot better because he's got the other things in line.”
The trials each player has faced brought them closer, which has in turn has them in line for a breakout season. Their bond hasn't gone unnoticed either.
“They hang out a lot. They are two big, silly guys,” Warford said. “You don't want to mess with them on the field, they're crazy. Off the field, P.C. is quiet and goofy and Donte likes to play around, laugh and mess with everybody. They're like night and day.”
Just ask A.J. Legree.
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