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Some news and notes from Thursday's practice as the final days tick away on Joker Phillips' tenure as head coach:
~~~If you expected this team to be unfocused or basically throw in the towel because of everything that's happened the past few weeks it doesn't sound as if that's the case. The players were in a great mood coming off the field today, and there was a lot of horseplay with some of them. Joker Phillips said he's been proud of the way his team has dealt with it all:
“Again, it's been upbeat. Given the circumstances, it's a lot better than I would have thought. Again, the reason why I'm here is because we've got good kids. If I didn't think we had good kids, there's no way I would do this. There's no way I would do this because I think it would be hard. It would be hard for them to get going. It would be hard for us to tell them to get going and (have them) respond the right way. The kids are responding.”
~~~Phillips has said he 'doesn't want an open casket' or to be the center of attention Saturday night in his last game at Commonwealth Stadium, but I asked him if he's had any time to think about what his own emotions will be like on that field for likely the final time:
“You know what? Nah, I haven't really. I haven't had a chance to do all that. Again, I've been through it here before. Not to this extent: being the head coach. I've been through it. I try to remember how it was then, It was kind of just, hey 'Time to move on. Time to move on.' That's the type of attitude I'll take with this one.
“Again, I think it's time to move on. Very seldom do you get and opportunity to be at a place nine years as a coach, then 10 years. I'll take that. Very seldom do you get that. I had an opportunity to be here 10 years, five of them bowl games. Five of them as a coordinator and three as a head coach. I just feel fortunate to be able to do that.”
~~~Phillips said he hasn't heard a ton of rumblings about who may replace him but many of them – including his assistants - have kept an eye on the coaching carousel to see where they may land:
“Nah. Nobody is going to ask me for any input. I said that the other day. No. You hear all that because one thing I do have is my ear is open because I've got to find a job. You want to find out who's doing what, and you do hear about this one too. Again, it's always a guy you never hear about. Everybody knows that.
“We all, including the assistant coaches, we've got to chase rumors right now, just like you guys do, to try to stay ahead of it. Myself, I'm not chasing them as much as the other guys are because I think I need to step back and take a breather. That's the attitude that I've taken. Then see what happens. You don't want to do anything quick. Let everything come to you.”
~~~Asked what kind of stuff he's heard about his own job prospects if he chooses to coach next season or whether people have already reached out to him, he acknowledged he's pretty sure he'll have a chance if he wants one:
“I don't know if coordinator or whatever but I think there will be opportunities out there based on the information (I've received) and people I've talked to. I've got a decent reputation out there amongst the coaches and that's what matters in this business, not people outside the business. It matters from people inside the business. We'll be able to work somewhere.”
~~~Samford may not be a top tier FCS team but it has enough good players to be competitive and it having a pretty good year at that level. Phillips said more and more FCS teams will have good players because of how recruiting has changed:
“There is no doubt about that. With teams only able to sign 25 there are still a lot of good football players out there. That's why you see all the upsets from I-Aa or FCS teams when they go up and win games, because there are some talented guys there, some guys that might not have been big enough at the time, overlooked, weren't as fast but got faster, transferred down. They've got some good football players on this team. They're 7-3 and should be ranked. They were a couple of point from being ranked, so it'll be a good football game.”
~~~When asked about what mistakes he made that he'll learn from if he ever gets another shot at a head coaching job, Phillips again hinted a lot of things may have been different had he been somewhere else before getting the Kentucky job.
“Number one, change your phone number. I watched Brooks do it about year two or three and I did too, made mine private. But when you started to call recruits and would see they would not accept unlisted or unrecognizable numbers I changed mine back. That's one of the reasons I never changed my number. That's one thing I would do (again).
“I think it's good to get (a job) when there is some excitement. I got named head coach in waiting in '07 and we were doing pretty good offensively, setting some records around here and two years later the excitement was kind of gone because we weren't doing as well offensively. We went down every year. It's hard to stay at that level here at Kentucky. By the time I took over there was really not a lot of excitement. The thing about this business is strike while you're hot. In '07 we were pretty hot, scoring a lot of points, moving the football and (I) really didn't get a chance to strike while it was hot.”
~~~Phillips has really gone out of his way several times to try and get people to understand the Kentucky job is a challenging one and not exactly the quick fix a lot of people outside the program want or think it to be. I think the only thing he wished were different is that more people held on longer in terms of showing up to get another year to see their talented younger players get a year older. Not bitter at all, but he just seems to believe people were a little quick to jump ship. That's just the way it sounds to me, could be wrong though.
“The other thing is, again, he'll be able to blame it on us for three years and I think that's good, I really do. I think it's good to be able to say that because it's not his players. I didn't get that. They were my players. That's all we heard, that they were all my players. I think it's good for the next guy to be able to blame it on us for three years. I'm okay with that. Hey, Joker didn't recruit. You can look out there and see we recruited, there are some really good players out there. There are some draft picks out there. I'd like to see in a couple of years how many draft picks are on this football team. He ought to have the opportunity to blame it on getting his players in here. That's only fair.
“I'm here to try to help the next guy and educate the people that didn't show up at Commonwealth on what it takes to win here. It takes everybody and it takes time too. The next guy needs to get five to seven years. I'm not one to say, 'I didn't get five years.' I don't worry about that. That's all in the past. But I think the next guy needs to get five to seven years before anybody can even begin to evaluate him.”
~~~How many times have you heard a football player use the term 'biological key'? Probably none. But that's what Larry Warford dropped today when asked about crying at Senior Night. Said if other guys around him cry he'll probably cry because it's a “biological key” that can't be avoided. Yeah, that's pretty awesome.
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