UK Football: Phillips stays positive
Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips smiles during his team¿s annual Media Day Friday at Commonwealth Stadium. Phillips is entering his third season as coach of the Wildcats. (Sun photo by Bo Morris / August 3, 2012)
For starters, Phillips has a roster stocked with leaders — a list Phillips said has blossomed in the past eight months.
“We have sat down and talked about who we thought were some of our leaders, and since January, that list has grown,” he said. “It’s doubled. There are a lot of leaders on this football team, and they’ve shown that throughout our off¿season, throughout spring football, and throughout the summer workouts. I’m excited about the dedication this football team has displayed, and I’m excited about the hunger this football team has shown.
He also has noticed the eagerness his team has displayed following the Wildcats’ season-ending 10-7 victory over Tennessee last fall, the school’s first win over the Volunteers in 26 seasons. Phillips and his staff witnessed as that momentum carried over not only into the weight room and spring practice, but also in the football study room.
“There wasn’t a weekend —I can’t remember a weekend — we’ve actually had to change our system and how we get into our offices because there are so many of our players wanting to get to watch film on Saturdays and Sundays,” he said. “There were numerous times that Max Smith has six or seven guys coaching saying you need to get in. Coach, we’ve got some young guys here. We’re all here together.”
In his tenure as a player, assistant coach and later as head coach at Kentucky, Phillips doesn’t remember a time when the film room generated so much buzz with the players. The overflow numbers have resulted in a change from the ordinary.
“We’ve had to change our system of how we enter our building,” he said. “We’re in the process of getting a system where our players can get in at any time. We’ve never had that. We’ve never had that where guys just can’t wait to get in the building on the weekends — on their off days. I’m excited about that. That’s what makes us excited.”
Phillips also raved about the team’s “commitment level.”
“(I’m) excited about how much they care about each other,” he said. “Our goal at the end of this camp is to make sure we come out of this thing one team, as a team, as a better football team. So that’s what makes us excited.”
In his view, the current roster features a list of athletes who resemble the ones that were on campus in 2006 that ushered in a string of five straight bowl appearances. That team won four of its last five games and defeated Clemson 28-20 in the Music City Bowl.
“We have in our top 44 players, there are 26 sophomores and redshirt freshmen,” he said. “That’s not counting this talented group that showed up. In 2006, there were 24, not counting the Braxton Kellys and those guys that stepped into starting roles, which we feel like a couple of these linebackers could possibly do and add even more depth to our program. It also reminds me of some of the senior and junior leaders, Collins Ukwu, Larry Warford, Taylor Wyndham, Matt Smith, Morgan Newton, Mikie Benton, Tay Neloms, PC Cobble, Donte Rumph is becoming one.
“I know you didn’t think you’d ever hear that. (the roster) reminds me of the leadership at the top, and the talent at the bottom.
“That reminds me of the 2006 team. We still got to go out and play, but the makeup of the team reminds me of that. We’ve still got to go out and play.”
The task begins on Sept. 2 at Louisville.