Joker Phillips doesn’t just have depth at running back this season.
Dyshawn Mobley is one of two freshman running backs who has impressed UK coach Joker Phillips less than a week into fall camp.
“We’ve got deep depth at that position,” he said Wednesday.
Excuse his redundancy, because redundant talent at such a physically demanding position is a luxury UK hasn’t had in a while.
Phillips declared his depth chart of quality rushers stocked with six backs vying for legitimate time: senior CoShik Williams, juniors Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George, sophomore Josh Clemons, and true freshmen Dyshawn Mobley and Justin Taylor. The way practice has shaken out through fall camp’s first five practices, the upperclassmen have been splitting the first-team reps—though Clemons has only gone every other day while he continues recovery from a torn meniscus that ended his freshman season last October—while Mobley and Taylor have split their time between the second and third teams.
“We’d like to get those guys a little bit more reps than the other three guys who have been here for three and four years, therefore they should know what to do. We know what they can do. We’ve got to make sure these young guys know what they’re doing so they can compete,” Phillips said.
The appeal of the two newcomers is in their style of play. Phillips characterizes the upperclassmen as backs who generally hit the outside and rely on their speed, evasiveness or both.
Mobley and Taylor are different.
“Both guys are big, physical guys,” Phillips said. “They can move the pile. When was the last time you’ve seen us move the pile?”
Mobley is 5-11 and 223 pounds, and Taylor is listed at 5-10 and 210 pounds. It’s one thing to try beat SEC defensive ends and linebackers around the edge outside. It’s another to try to attack and beat tackles and middle linebackers up the middle. In years past, the Cats haven’t had the depth and quality of both styles of backs, so defenses could predict what was coming.
The hope with this committee of running backs—and “committee” is a word Phillips embraced when asked Wednesday—is that it can keep defenses from knowing what’s coming next. Mobley hasn’t played in a college game yet, and he’s only participated in one practice with full pads, but he knows how important variety will be to UK’s success as a running team.
“We definitely have some scat backs. We have some big backs that can run between the tackles,” Mobley said. “I consider myself a back that really can attack, but I definitely can get on the outside.”
Running backs coach Steve Pardue said he has an ideaof what he’ll get from Williams, George and Sanders. He’s finding out about Mobley and Taylor. That leaves Clemons, who to Pardue may be the most important sixth of UK’s prospective backfield.
Clemons led the Cats in rushing yards when he suffered his season-ending knee injury on Oct. 8 against South Carolina last season, and his 279 yards came in fits and starts; certainly his 87-yard touchdown rush against Central Michigan would count as a “fit.” But he also rushed for 69 yards at LSU, the notoriously staunch defense that held every team’s rushing attack but national champion Alabama (in the second game of two between the schools) to nothing but chicken scraps and drops of water.
Clemons isn’t participating in practice every day, as noted above, but Pardue said the practice program is keeping swelling in his recovering knee to a minimum, which should keep him on track to be available for UK’s season opener on Sept. 2 at Louisville.
If all six are available against the Cardinals or in any of the Cats’ other 11 games, Phillips said he wouldn’t be surprised if all six were used.
That’s deep depth.
“They’re all good enough to play,” he said. “They’re all good enough to win with, also. We’ve won some games with all three of those guys, all four of those guys in at tailback for us. They’re all good enough to play, and we’re happy to play them.”
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