By LARRY VAUGHT
He had to make his mark on special teams, and did that so well that Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops joked that he might switch Dyshawn Mobley from running back to defense because of the tackles he was making.
But in UK’s final two games, Mobley showed he can definitely have a spot in Neal Brown’s offense even with the expected competition the Cats will have at running back next year.
Mobley scored on a 69-yard run at Georgia and then had a 53-yard run and a career-high 143 yards in the season-ending loss to Tennessee. He finished the year with 300 yards on 43 carries, an average of a team-high 7.0 yards per attempt.
“I told my team at halftime I was going to lay it all on the line. I told them I was going to go out there and have fun,” said Mobley after the Tennessee game.
Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith says there has never been any doubt that the 5-11, 210-pound Mobley, a record-setting back during his prep career in Tennessee, could run the football. He ran for 3,068 yards and 48 scores as a senior and had 5,849 rushing yards and 76 touchdowns in his prep career.
“We all know he can run the ball really hard. He’s got talent, but he has other stuff that he needs to work on and things that he needs to show the coaching staff,” Smith said. “He played great. He ran his butt off (against Tennessee). He ran really tough, and that’s who he is. He goes out every day on special teams and just balls. He is a baller and tonight he showed that he can play.”
Stoops admitted he was “impressed” with the way Mobley finished the season.
“I love the way he’s playing. He’s going all out and it’s good to see. He’s got great passion for the game,” Stoops said after the Tennessee game. “You could see that when he’s going down there and busting his hump on special teams and doing all those good things, so I’ve been pleased with Dyshawn.”
Stoops wished more players had seized the chance to finish the season strong to show him they deserved spots on next year’s team.
“We’ve got to continue to build in all areas of this program and we need guys to step up and take charge. We need toughness and we need leadership and we need to continue to have guys emerge in that area,” Stoops said.
Mobley said it was hard to patiently wait for a chance to show what he could do the last two years.
“For any kid it would be hard to wait your turn. I just sat back and waited for my turn. I knew I would get my chance and when I did I was going to give it my all. A couple people (were) down and the coaches had enough trust to put me in,” he said. “Once I got out there and started playing, it definitely slowed down.”
Mobley knows he has to work in the offseason to keep improving.
“We have just got to get in there and work hard,” he said.
Brown said it was “encouraging” to see how Mobley finished the season, but now he has to show he can be a more consistent player.
“He’s gotta focus more. He runs the ball really well, OK? His running ability, I’ve never questioned. He’s gotta be more consistent in his pass protection,” Brown said. “He does some things where he loses focus, like I think he had one or maybe two procedure penalties where he just didn’t get set in the backfield; we were going to direct-snap him.
“I think just consistency. He practiced better the last three or four weeks. That’s encouraging. But he’s got raw ability. He’s tough to tackle in space, and I’m real encouraged. I think he’s going to be a big-time factor for us moving forward.”
That’s what Mobley wants to help thank the seniors for what they did for him and his teammates this season.
“The seniors laid down the foundation for our upcoming season. They help push the tradition of UK football forward and now we have to take it and go with it,” he said.