When Golden Gophers running back David Cobb was asked why he chose to play his college football at Minnesota his answer was all of four words.
"They run the ball," Cobb said plainly.
Cobb's straightforward delivery when speaking mirrors his running style on the field. Thickly built at 5-foot-11 and 229 pounds, Cobb has a downhill style and is adept at maintaining his balance for extra yards after initial contact.
"I think the biggest thing about me is I'm a three-down back and kind of physical," Cobb said. "Not a power back. Not a speed back. Just kind of balanced and kind of can do it all. I just pride myself on being confident and not being tackled by one person."
For the Big 10 conference even taking Cobb down with a host of defenders proved difficult at times. Cobb followed up a 1,200-yard rushing season as a junior with 1,626 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014. His highlight game last season came at the hands of the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes with 145 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
"With Cobb there's obviously the production and going back and looking at him he runs with good balance, drives his legs for extra yards at the end with good base and low center of gravity," said ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay. "He's adequate in the passing game, reliable hands. He can be trusted catching the ball, but he needs to improve in pass protection. He's willing, but he needs work there."
Cobb set out to show he made such improvements at the Senior Bowl, where in the game he rushed for 69 yards on 11 carries and was consistent catching the ball.
"The biggest thing coming in is they wanted to see me catch the ball and I think I left a good impression that I could catch the ball and run routes and pass protect," said Cobb. "That's the biggest thing that I left feeling confident about, pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. I felt like I had a good showing and I could do those things."
Despite suffering a quad injury on his first 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, in which he ran a 4.81, Cobb had 17 reps on the bench and an impressive 38.5-inch vertical, a strong indicator of his explosiveness. He just conducted an individual pro day last week and improved his 40 time considerably with some teams in attendance timing him in the low to mid-4.6s.
Playing in a conference that runs the ball heavily, some believe Cobb was overshadowed by the likes of Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Indiana's Tevin Coleman and Michigan State's Jeremy Langford. Cobb however, never felt slighted when it came to recognition.
"There were great performances week in and week out in the Big 10. I wouldn't say (I was) overshadowed because those guys deserved as much exposure as they got," said Cobb. "It definitely was great to see that competition. You can't relax. You can't take a week off because you have four other guys in the Big 10 just as good as you are or better, so it definitely was a great feeling to compete every week and actually get a chance to play those guys."
McShay expressed some concern that Cobb didn't always attack the creases in the run game, and bounced a few too many runs outside. Most NFL prospects can get away with that at the college level, but the ESPN draft analyst believes Cobb will need to learn quickly to take the short gain when it's there.
"I think for Cobb the big issue I have is in the NFL with the speed of the defenses you can't turn down open creases and learn to appreciate a gain of three yards," said McShay.
With such a deep class of running backs most see Cobb coming off the board somewhere between rounds three and four. The Minnesota back just wants to play at the pro level, so he's happy as long as his name is called.
"My goal is what it's been since I was little – to play in the NFL," he said. "So first or seventh (round), it doesn't really matter to me. Everyone wants to go first round, but the reality is it's not going to happen. Whenever my name is called, I'll be ready to go."