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September 21, 2011Mister Cobble was supposed to earn his first start a long time ago.
The sophomore defensive tackle, who redshirted in 2009, was penciled in as a starter before the 2010 season as a freshman. But he was academically ineligible for the season. He came back and played in the Wildcats' 27-10 loss in the Compass Bowl, but came off the bench to do it.
Many figured he'd slide into the starting lineup at the beginning of this season as he'd been expected to do in 2010. But senior Luke McDermott, a former walk-on listed at 264 pounds, earned the starting spot alongside sophomore Donte Rumph.
That wasn't a motivational tactic, defensive line coach David Turner said.
"Luke was the best player," Turner said. "He still is the best player."
Cobble's move into the starting lineup comes as the Wildcats move into SEC play and Turner is looking to add more size to the defensive line. Cobble and Rumph both weigh well over 300 pounds. They'll need that weight to help stop Florida's offense, which is averaging over 210 yards per game on the ground.
Cobble said he wasn't surprised to see McDermott listed as the starter for the first three games. But even if it wasn't a motivational ploy from the coaches, Cobble used it as fuel. He tried to improve as a pass rusher to earn more playing time.
"As time went on I was hoping to work up to the first team," Cobble said. "Trying to outwork Luke."
Just because Cobble has found his way into the starting lineup doesn't mean things will change that much. He found plenty of playing time in Kentucky's first three games, and Turner said McDermott will still see plenty of playing time, especially in passing situations.
Particularly on third-and-long, McDermott and junior Taylor Wyndham will see their share of snaps. While the size of Rumph and Cobble is an asset against the run, McDermott and Wyndham specialize in rushing the passer. First and second down, though, should belong to Rumph and Cobble.
"We know we're not the biggest defensive line," Turner said. "People are probably going to try and pound us, so we have to try and get a little more size in there. That's the situation we have with PC and with Donte. We have some bigger guys, some stronger guys and some guys who are a little smaller and quicker. I think we have a good complement."
Many of Cobble's firsts at UK have been delayed. His first season was delayed because of his academic problems and his first game action came long after most expected. Now, he's making his first start since December 2008 - when he was still a standout for (Louisville) Central.
To him, earning a start isn't a big deal. Still, he can't wait to be out there for the first snaps.
"At the start of the game, that's when everything is pumping," Cobble said. "The adrenaline is running through your body and the atmosphere increases the flow of everything. I feel like the intensity at the start of the game is a lot different."