In the case of Kentucky's Matt Roark and fullback Andrew Joseph, tonight's BBVA Compass Bowl may serve as a springboard for next season.
Roark, a North Cobb product, is a junior who served much of the season on special teams and as the Wildcats' No. 3 wide receiver. Joseph, meanwhile spent much of the season practicing and waiting his turn to see the field as the third-string fullback.
Therefore, in the Wildcats' practices leading into today's game against Pittsburgh in Birmingham, Ala., there's been plenty to work toward.
"(The offense) isn't a challenge for him because I know how talented he is," said Kentucky wide receivers coach Tee Martin, who served one season on Shane Queen's staff at North Cobb. "Once (he) becomes more consistent, (he) will get on the field, and he has done that. Looking forward to next year, he will be one of our top two guys in the offense."
Roark will likely move into a starting role in the receiving corps, as leading receiver Chris Matthews will graduate, while Randall Cobb, the team's second leading receiver, is a converted quarterback who could play in either role next season.
On the season, Roark has caught 12 passes for 170 yards, and also caught a pass for a 2-point conversion against Georgia. On special teams, he has four tackles and he blocked an extra point against Florida. Roark earned starts against Charleston Southern and Mississippi and has been involved in nearly every special teams play this season.
"When I first got here, I was trying to make the bus and travel on the team," Roark said. "There were other receivers, so I wasn't going to play much. I went hard on special teams, hit some people and have been doing it ever since."
At fullback, senior Moncell Allen will play his final game of his career tonight, leaving Joseph, a former Pope standout, to battle with junior Greg Meisner for the starting spot.
"I'm third-string right now with a senior in front of me and another guy who is transferring because they didn't renew his scholarship," Joseph said. "I've always had a good work ethic and set goals. When I first came (to Kentucky), I thought I would play here whether or not I had to wait three years or not to start.
"It gets tough sometimes because I don't get on the field this year, but you have to stay motivated. Coaches notice that kind of stuff if you keep your head up and work as hard as you can."
While Joseph and Roark have much in common as they look forward to next season, their journeys to Kentucky were far different.
Roark was recruited to Kentucky, and choosing the Wildcats over Tennessee, Oregon and Wake Forest. At North Cobb, he was a quarterback when he fell under the tutelage of Martin, who starred at the same position at Tennessee.
Martin and Roark formed a bond over the past four years, which made transitioning to wide receiver that much easier for Roark.
"I met (Martin) my junior year of high school, as he spoke to me in some other club I was in," Roark said. "Then, we started talking football, and I introduced him to my coach (Queen). My senior year, he coached at my high school for football season.
"Then, he left and went to North Atlanta for a season, but we kept in contact, and he helped me during the recruiting process. I'll always talk to him for life advice. When he got up here, it was the best news I had heard in awhile."
With a mentor serving as his position coach, Roark has been able to learn that much more about his position and how to improve as a player.
"It helps because I can relate to him better than the rest of the coaches," Roark said. "I know him more on a personal basis, so I have more trust in him than in anyone else."
Joseph walked on at Kentucky after originally signing with the Naval Academy. As he attended the academy's prep school, he was medically discharged from the Navy after a blood test that revealed he had a hereditary kidney disease.
Joseph and his family tried to dispute the test's findings.
"It was a faulty blood test," he said. "They thought I had a hereditary disease that I didn't have. We proved it to them, but they didn't accept our findings. A civilian doctor ran the same test the Navy ran. He's a well-respected doctor in the Atlanta area that had no idea what they saw.
"I didn't find out any of that until three days before I was supposed to report to Annapolis. It kind of threw my plan, my life, on a complete 180."
After his discharge, Joseph wanted to continue playing football and planned to go to Georgia Tech and play for former Midshipmen coach Paul Johnson. He took all the steps necessary, and thought he was ready to play for the Yellow Jackets, but he never made it.
"I figured that everything was taken care of, then I got a call three days before getting housing that everything wasn't together," he said. "I don't want to bash them. It was just a misunderstanding."
The admissions department never received Joseph's transcript.
As Joseph planned to go to Tech, he had also visited with then-Kentucky coach Rich Brooks. After the mix-up at Georgia Tech, he enrolled last fall at Kentucky, redshirted and - even though he is a junior in the classroom - will have four years of eligibility remaining with new Wildcats coach Joker Phillips.
"I got the lay of the land with my dad and thought it was a good fit academically and with football."