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Cobb making changes

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I had planned to publish a notebook lede on C.J. Cobb and the job he's done so far in spring practice, but then I got this today.

 

Football's CJ Cobb Undergoes Successful Ankle Surgery

 

CINCINNATI - University of Cincinnati senior offensive lineman CJ Cobb underwent successful surgery to repair a broken right ankle at University of Cincinnati Hospital Monday.

 

Dr. Angelo Colosimo, the Bearcats' team orthopedic surgeon, performed the operation.

 

Cobb was injured during spring practice on Saturday, April 10, 2010. He will miss the rest of the spring, but is expected to be ready when UC opens fall camp in August.

 

Here's the story I would have published (and I guess I still am):

 

Last year during practice, C.J. Cobb's running style could best be described as plodding. During end-of-practice sprints or as he hustled to get off the practice field following a repetition, the 315-pound Cobb was less swift than just about anybody else on the Bearcats squad.

 

Last week, though, I noticed a different Cobb. True, nobody is going to mistake him for a burner quite yet, but it was also evident that Cobb has been hard at work transforming his body and dropping weight.

 

It's the mindset of an offensive lineman who's entering his senior season, short on gameday experience but long on desire to make sure he gets plenty of playing time this season.

 

"Last year was a weight issue," Cobb said. "But I have a new mindset. This is my last year. This is the only chance I have to step up and give my teammates all I have. This year, I want to be a leader. If that means me hustling more to get off the field quicker, that's what I'll do. I'm going to hustle to get off my block, I'm going to hustle to get to the ball carrier to help him get up. I'm going to do all of it, because I want to give everything I've got to my team."

He's done that by becoming, dare I say, svelte. He played last season at 315 pounds, and because he wasn't sure what kind of offensive style the new coaching staff would implement this season, he entered the spring at 323. He was told he needed to lose weight to stay relevant in the spread offense, and at a practice last week, he said he was down to 302 pounds.

 

"Probably 299 after practice," Cobb said with a smile.

 

He's also playing a new position and seems destined finally to earn a starting spot. While he's flip-flopped between tackle and guard, the coaching staff has decided that he's most definitely a tackle. He's needed to lose some of the weight because he'll be counted on to move his feet more quickly and display more athleticism while blocking opposing defensive ends.

 

Two years ago, Cobb seemed ready to take the step toward earning a starting spot, but midway through fall camp, he tore his ACL and lost his opportunity.

 

"Everything happens for a reason," Cobb said. "When I got hurt two years ago and I tore my ACL, that's when I was beginning to feel good. I was told by the coaches that I had cracked the starting lineup going into camp, but then I got hurt. I got relegated to a backup position. Guys stepped up and stepped in there and kind of took over. I was kind of put on the backburner. Obviously, I can't argue with their success, because they did a great job. I've just waited for my chance, and now that I'm getting it, I'm going to make the best of it."

 

--One of coach Butch Jones' biggest projects this year is developing some depth on a young defense after losing a number of starters to graduation.

 

"The big thing is depth and learning how to play for an extended period of time and learning how to play when you're tired," Jones said. "When you don't have depth, you have to learn how to play when you're tired."

 

While Jones says UC still doesn't have much depth at this point - "That's what we're trying to develop each and every day," he said - the Bearcats have some young players who received significant time last year and performed well. Guys like Walter Stewart, John Hughes and J.K. Schaffer spring to mind.

 

"They do have experience," Jones said. "They have to continue to build off that experience and help the younger players trying to build depth and to compete. They have to help along those same lines."

 

--I asked senior wide receiver Marcus Barnett his thoughts on the performance this spring of the Bearcats offense. So far, he's not exactly satisfied.

 

"Everybody's doing OK," Barnett said. "To the outsiders, we might look good. But inside, we know we're not where we need to be yet. But we're going to get there. Everybody is working every day to get better."

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