Derrick Locke: The Most Underrated Player in the SEC

William BlakeCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2009

LEXINGTON, KY - OCTOBER 11:  Derrick Locke #20 of the Kentucky Widcats runs with the ball during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Commonwealth Stadium on October 11, 2008 in Lexington, Kentucky  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

While it is somewhat debatable as to which conference is the most dominant in college football, it is much less so as to which is the most physical; the SEC. It's also well known how fast the conference is; how many of the Florida Gators players run under a 4.4 40 yard dash? However, one of the most unknown players in the SEC combines both power and speed well.

His name? Derrick Locke.

Locke, a seemingly scrawny 5-9 and 180 pound junior, is easily one of the SEC's best kept secrets. He displays incredible strength, scoring 51 touchdowns in his senior season of high school. He isn't credited enough for his tough goal-line ability. How many others with his height and weight could take on some of the elite defenses of the SEC?

However, Locke even presents more of a speed threat. He is also a track star at Kentucky, and in high school ran a 10.6 100 yard dash, enough to win the state competition. Locke also won the long jump, only on a national level, at a whopping 25 feet and 4.75 inches.

However, at Kentucky, he set the freshman long jump record, improving on his old figure by half of an inch. This is less than four feet than that of the all-time record, set by Mike Powell. 

Locke even has the 40 yard dash time; it's reported that he ran around a 4.21 electronically timed run. This is faster than the likes of former college speedsters, Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, and Felix Jones.

Locke has all the measurables. However, he's also proved that he won't back down to anyone. In 2007, his freshman season, Locke ended up placing second rushing yards, and first in rushing touchdowns.

His totals included 94 carries for 521 yards, a 5.5 yards per carry average, and five rushing touchdowns. Locke did miss the bowl game against the Florida State Seminoles though with a rib injury.

But what does this tell us? Well, consider who Locke had to compete with for playing time: senior Rafael Little, junior Tony Dixon, and sophomore Alfonso Smith, each of whom brought something productive to the table. 

Locke was still able to get the second most touches, a lot in part to his breakout game against the LSU Tigers. He got his chance mostly because Little was out with an injury and Dixon had been largely ineffective for the game. Locke didn't rush for a blistering amount of yards, but he made plays when plays needed to be made, including a powerful one-yard touchdown run in the first overtime. As we all know, the Wildcats triumphed, 37-43.

For the rest of 2007, Locke would get a respectable amount of looks due to the valiant effort against the Tigers. He would post a personal season high rushing total against the tenacious defense of Florida.

In 2008, Locke had another solid season, with 63 carries for 303 yards, a 4.8 yards per carry rushing average, and a score on the ground. Locke recorded his career high rushing mark against the Norfolk State Spartans, a total of 96 yards. Locke's season would end early after sustaining a pretty nasty knee injury at the South Carolina Gamecocks in the seventh game of the season for the Wildcats.

One thing Locke has improved on is his pass catching ability. In his freshman season, he caught only seven passes for 86 yards, but the next year, he would catch 23 passes for 195 yards, a significant improvement. Locke's quarterbacks in 2008, Mike Hartline and Randall Cobb, were more content to throw short passes than his quarterback in 2007, Andre' Woodson. 

In a crowded Wildcats backfield, there has always been room for Locke. Not because necessarily because of his speed and jumping ability, but because he earned it. Locke figures to have a breakout 2009 season.