Although the Kentucky football program's tradition isn't as gilded as many of its SEC brethren, over the years there have been a number of great players who were right for the fight as the 'Cats battled for pigskin relevancy in a state where, unlike its Southeastern Conference rivals, basketball is king. In honor of those great players, and as a way to enlighten those who perceive UK football as a 100-year losing proposition, I offer up my Kentucky Wildcat Football Dream Team; a squad composed of the most outstanding football Wildcats to ever don the blue and white.
Some of the selections were relatively easy, some much tougher, but this is a team that could challenge any other school's all-time all-star squad.
Follow me after the jump for the Wildcats' football team we can only dream about.
Tim Couch (1996-'98) -- "The Deuce" impacted Kentucky football like few others before or since. Couch not only brought Kentucky football back from the despair of a combined record of 26 - 52 from 1990 to 1996, he made Kentucky football fun again. In two years as the 'Cats' full-time starter (in his freshman year of '96 he played sparingly behind Billy Jack Haskins), Couch threw for 8,159 yards and 73 touchdowns.
His 8,345 total pass yards for his career rank third in UK history, while Couch's 4,275 passing yards in 1998 rank as the high water mark in Kentucky quarterback lore, with his 3,884 passing yards his sophomore season second on Big Blue's all-time single-season passing list.
He tossed 74 touchdown passes in his career, third all-time in UK history, and is responsible for two seven touchdown games (a UK record), and one six touchdown game (tied for second on the Wildcat single game touchdown list).
Couch's 795 career pass completions rank second in UK history behind Jared Lorenzen's 862 completions, and the Leslie County icon holds the UK record for completion percentage for his career (.671), as well as the top two single-season completion percentages in Kentucky history -- 1998: .723 (400-553), and 1997: .664 (363-547).
Couch placed ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1997, and fourth in 1998. He was SEC Player of the Year in 1998 as well as a consensus All-America selection.
On the verge: Babe Parilli (1949-1951, two-time First-Team All-America in '50 & '51), Andre' Woodson (2004-2007, Second-Team All-SEC, '07)), Derrick Ramsey (1975-1977, Third-Team All-America in 1976), Rick Norton (1963-1965, 1965 First-Team All-America) and Jared Lorenzen (2000-2003, Second-Team All-SEC, '02).
Moe Williams (1993-'95) -- The second leading rusher in Kentucky history with 3,333 yards, Williams ran for a single-season school record 1,600 yards in 1995. Williams holds the top three spots in UK's single-game rushing category, with a UK-record 299 yards on 40 attempts vs. South Carolina in '95 (7.5 yards per carry); 272 yards on 40 attempts vs. Cincinnati in '95 (6.8 ypc); and 238 yards on 35 carries vs. Mississippi State, also in 1995 (6.8 ypc).
Additionally, Big Moe motored his way to the most prolific offensive game in Kentucky history when he posted a Wildcat record 429 all-purpose yards by rushing for 299 yards, having 57 yards receiving, to go along with 73 return yards in the 1995 South Carolina game.
Williams is tied for first in UK history with 26 career rushing touchdowns (his 27 total touchdowns is tied for third in the UK record books), and holds the single-season rushing touchdown mark with 17 in 1995. He is third on UK's career 100-yard rushing game list with 13 in 1995.
Williams was named First-Team All-SEC in 1995, and Second-Team All-SEC in 1993.
Sonny Collins (1972-'75) -- Kentucky's all-time leading career rushing leader with 3,835 yards on a school-record 777 carries (4.5 ypc), Collins bulled his way to 26 career rushing touchdowns, tied with Williams for most in UK history.
The bruising back is the only UK running back to lead the 'Cats in rushing for four straight years, with his most productive season coming in 1973 when he ran for 1,213 yards (5.4 ypc), fourth most in UK history, and 13 touchdowns (tied for second most single-season rushing TDs).
Collins is one of only two Wildcat running backs to top 1,000 yards rushing in two seasons (1973, 1975), and his 18 career 100-yard rushing games leads all UK rushers.
Collins was named First-Team All-SEC in 1973; Second-Team All-America in 1972; and Third-Team All-America in 1974.
Rafael Little (2004-'07) -- With 2,996 rushing yards, Little ranks third in rushing yards in school history. His 5.17 career yards per carry average is also third highest in school lore. A multiple threat of the highest order, Little was responsible for 5,343 all-purpose yards in his career (2,996 rushing, 1,324 receiving, 1,023 return), second most in Wildcat annals. In 2005, Little gained 1,982 all-purpose yards, UK's second best single-season all-purpose performance.
Against Vanderbilt in 2005, Little recorded 372 all-purpose yards, the second most single-game a-p yards in Kentucky history. His 13 career 100-yard rushing games ranks second in school history. Little ended his career with 22 total touchdowns (16 rushing, four receiving, two returns).
Little is one of only two UK running backs to record 1,000-plus rushing yards in two seasons (2005, 2007)
Nothing if not unique, Little was named First-Team All-SEC in 2005 in the all-purpose category, along with being selected Second-Team All-SEC as a running back.
On the verge: Mark Higgs (1984-1987, Second-Team All-SEC, '87), George Adams (1981-1984, First-Team All-SEC, '84), Artose Pinner (1999-2002), Roger Bird (1963-1965, First-Team All-America, '65), and Bobby Cravens (1956-1958, Second-Team All-SEC, '57 & '58).
Craig Yeast (1995-'98) -- Tim Couch's top target hauled in a school record 208 passes for a UK record 2,899 yards in his illustrious career (13.9 yards per reception). Upon graduating, Yeast held the SEC record for most career receptions and was second in career receiving yardage. Yeast's 28 career receiving touchdowns also tops the UK record books, with his 14 touchdown catches in 1998 the UK single-season record for TD receptions. The Harrodsburg High School alum's 32 career touchdowns are the second most in UK lore.
The diminutive but speedy wide-out's four touchdown catches vs. Indiana in 1997 is tied for the Kentucky single-game receiving TD record. Yeast is also the only UK receiver to record over 200 yards receiving in a single game, and he accomplished that impressive feat twice. First, in 1998 against Florida, when he hauled in 6 passes for 206 yards (34.3 ypr), and then a few weeks later against Vanderbilt when Yeast snagged 16 passes for a school-record 269 yards (16.8 ypr).
An ace kick returner, Yeast recorded 4,280 all-purpose yards in his Wildcat career, good for fifth all-time, with his 1,841 a-p yards in 1998 ranking fourth all-time. Also in 1998, Yeast returned three kick-offs and one punt for touchdowns.
Yeast was named First-Team All-SEC and Third-Team All-America (College Football News) in 1998, and Second-Team All-SEC in 1997.
Derek Abney (2000-'03) -- The craftily elusive Abney ranks third in the Kentucky record books with 2,339 career receiving yards, and second with 197 receptions (11.9 ypr). Abney's 18 career touchdown catches ranks third in Wildcat history.
Another kick returning specialist, Abney holds the UK mark for most career all-purpose yards with 5,856 (2,339 receiving, 160 rushing, 3,357 returns), and his 1,922 a-p yards in 2002 rank as the third best all-purpose yardage season in school history. Upon his graduation in 2003, Abney had returned eight kicks for touchdowns. He returned six kicks for touchdowns in 2002, the most ever in NCAA single-season history. Abney's 26 career touchdowns are tied for seventh in UK annals.
Abney holds the UK record for highest career average yards per play with a 14.83 average. Second place average? 9.76 yards per play, a difference of over five yards per play.
Abney was a First-Team All-America in 2002, and Second-Team All-America in 2003.
Keenan Burton (2003-'07) -- Second on UK's career receiving yards list with 2,376 (12.6 ypr), Burton, when healthy, was as sure-handed a target as any receiver in Wildcat history. The Manual High School product had the third best receiving season in school history with 1,036 yards in 2006 (13.5 ypr), and scored 12 receiving touchdowns, the third best single-season in Wildcat lore.
Against Vanderbilt in 2006, Burton recorded 171 receiving yards, fifth most single-game reception yards all-time. Burton's 25 career touchdown receptions ranks second in the UK record books, while his 189 career catches rank fourth all-time.
Burton, like Abney and Yeast, was utilized in UK's return game where he accounted for 1,715 kick return yards (25.6 yards per return) and one return touchdown. His 26 total touchdowns are tied for seventh all-time with Abney.
Burton received dual All-SEC status in 2006 as he was named a First-Team All-SEC all-purpose performer, and Second-Team All-SEC receiver.
Tom Hutchinson (1960-'62) -- Although his name doesn't dot Kentucky's football record books, Hutchinson was UK's leading receiver from the time he graduated in '62 until 1997. In the run-first age of college football, Hutchinson caught 94 career passes for 1,483 yards (15.8 ypr).
Hutchinson was named First-Team All-SEC all three years at UK.
On the verge: Dicky Lyons, Jr. (2004, 2006-2007), Steve Meilinger (1951-1953, First-Team All-America, '52 & '53, First-Team All-SEC, 1951), Rick Kestner (1963-1965, First Team All-SEC, '64 & '65), Felix Wilson (1977-1979, Second-Team All-SEC, '79).
Jacob Tamme (2004-'07) -- In his exceptional four-year career, Tamme caught 133 passes for 1,417 yards (10.7 ypr) and 11 touchdowns. In 2007, his senior year, Tamme was instrumental in the 'Cats posting an 8-5 record as he caught 56 passes for 619 yards and six touchdowns.
Tamme was named First-Team All-SEC in 2007.
James Whalen (1997-'99) -- In what still stands as an NCAA tight end reception record, Whalen snared 90 passes in 1999 on his way to 1,019 receiving yards (11.3 ypr). Whalen is the only UK tight end to top 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Whalen recorded 10 touchdowns in 1999, tied for fourth most single-season touchdown receptions in school history.
Whalen was selected as a First-Team All-America in 1999.
On the verge: Elmore Stephens (1971, 1973-1974, First-Team All-America, '74), Alex Smith (1999-2000, First-Team All-SEC, '00).
Randall Cobb (2008-'10) -- One of the most dangerous players to ever wear the Kentucky uniform, Cobb was the epitome of a multi-threat football player. At home as a receiver, running back, quarterback, or kick returner, Cobb left an indelible mark all over the UK record books.
The story of Cobb begins with his UK record 37 all-purpose touchdowns, five more than second place Craig Yeast. And he scored six every way possible: 22 rushing, 13 receiving, and two punt returns. Add that to the five touchdown passes Cobb tossed, and the Alcoa, Tennessee native accounted for 42 touchdowns in his outstanding Kentucky career. Cobb's 15 touchdowns scored in 2009 places him tied for second most single-season TDs in UK lore.
Cobb's 4,674 career all-purpose yards rank fourth all-time in UK history (1,313 rushing, 1,661 receiving, 1,081 kick return, 619 punt return), and his 2,396 a-p yards in 2010 stand as a Kentucky single-season record, 414 yards ahead of second place.
Cobb ranks second in UK history in career yards per play average at 9.76. The two best single-season yards per play average in UK history belong to Cobb, as he averaged 12.10 yards per play in 2010, and 9.84 yards per play in 2009.
As a receiver, Cobb posted 144 career catches, fifth all-time, with his 84 receptions in 2010 ranking as the third most single-season catches in school history. His 1,017 receiving yards (12.1 ypr) in 2010 is the fifth most single-season reception yards in Kentucky history. Cobb's 13 receptions against Tennessee in 2010 is second on the UK single-game reception list.
Cobb was named a First-Team All-America in 2010, and First-Team All-SEC in both 2009 and 2010.
Dicky Lyons, Sr. (1966-'68) -- If there ever was a player who did more for the football 'Cats than Randall Cobb, it's Dicky Lyons, Jr. From 1966 to 1968 Lyons led the Wildcats in kick-off returns, returning 56 kicks for 1,188 yards (21.2 ypr); in 1967 Lyons was the team's punter, and averaged 38.5 yards per punt on 46 attempts; in 1967 and 1968 he led UK in all-purpose yardage, rushing for a combined 865 yards, posting 277 receiving yards, running for 646 punt return yards, and 921 kick-off return yards.
Lyons led the 'Cats in rushing in both 1967 (473 yards) and 1968 (392 yards), and scored eight rushing touchdowns both seasons. In 1967 Lyons also was the team's part-time kicker, making four extra-points and one field goal.
His 1,065 career punt return yards still rank first all-time in UK history, with his 419 punt return yards in 1966 the third highest total ever for a Wildcat. Lyons' 15.4 career punt return average (a ridiculous number) still paces all UK punt returners, and his three punts returned for a touchdown are second to Derek Abney's six. Lyons holds the record for longest punt return for a touchdown with his 97-yard scamper against Houston in 1966.
Lyons was named a First-Team All-SEC selection in both 1967 and 1968.
On the verge: No other Wildcats are in the same stratosphere as Cobb and Lyons when it comes to all-purpose excellence.
Seth Hanson (1997-1998, 2000-2001) -- Hanson is UK's leader in field goal accuracy (minimum 20 attempts), having made 35 of 48 career kicks (.729). In 2000, Hanson was nearly perfect as he connected on 15-of-17 kicks (.882).
On the verge: Ken Willis (1987-1989), Doug Pelfrey (1990-1992, First-Team All-SEC, '91, Second-Team All-SEC, '92), and Joey Worley (1984-1987, Second-Team All-SEC, '86)
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!