Kentucky coach Joker Phillips made an early appearance at the Kentucky Football Coaches Association summer clinic last week at Centre College.
Rather than wait and come with defensive coordinator Rick Minter for his talk after lunch Thursday, Phillips arrived when the morning session started because he had to be back in Lexington to meet with a recruit in the afternoon.
“I didn’t want to not be here, but I had another commitment later,” said Phillips, who visited with high school coaches and listened to Murray State coach Chris Hatcher’s presentation. “We want all these coaches to know they are important to Kentucky football, and even though coach Minter is doing a talk, I wanted them to know I appreciated them as well.”
Phillips also talked about these topics:
Question: Do you think wins over Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, Clemson and Florida State since 2006 have changed the perception of Kentucky football, especially with the new Southeastern Conference TV deal?
Phillips: “It has. We are in a lot of major markets now, and it gives us a chance for kids all across the United States to see us. We have gotten some kids from junior colleges in California that their parents get to see us every week, and that has helped us get out in that area in recruiting. It has definitely helped the perception of Kentucky football.
“The big thing that has helped the perception of Kentucky football is that when we have been on TV, we have competed. That has helped us also. We’ve beaten some of the traditional powers in this league. The thing we have to try to do is do it on a consistent basis.”
Question: What is your approach to Twitter, Facebook and other social media with your players and/or coaches?
Phillips: “One thing we try to tell our players to do is not put anything on there that will embarrass us or your family. First of all, we don’t want any of our football business on there, and the next thing is not to embarrass us or your family.
“This is a Twitter, Facebook world. We want those guys to have fun with it, but we want to keep it under control also. We have always tried to educate our players and monitor, and when I say monitor, we would watch what they say, but we wouldn't tell them what to say because we know the world that we live in.”
Question: How do you determine what jersey number a player gets, and how much latitude do players have in choosing a number? What happens if two players want the same number?
Phillips: “We try to give kids numbers, if they are available, that they wore in high school. If they are not available, we have to go back to the position they play. Then if there are two guys that want the same number and if it is a high school kid and a kid already here ... this is the first year we will double up some numbers. We will have to be creative and can’t put two guys on offense in the same number and also can’t put two guys we think might play on the same special teams.
“But we will double up some numbers this year. It will be quarterback-defensive back numbers or something like that. It won’t be two guys with any chance to be on the field at the same time, but that will make it easier at times to give players numbers they want.”
Question: Will the tight ends be a bigger part of the offense this year, and will there be a true fullback this season or more one-back sets?
Phillips: “Tight ends, if we started today, would be more of a factor. We would probably play two tight ends rather than play a fullback, because we don’t have a proven fullback in our offense right now. We do have some proven tight ends that have played significant role in our offense. We would be more tight ends than true fullbacks.”
Question: Are there any more major concerns about academic eligibility, especially after the departure of defensive linemen Brice Laughlin and Norman Delic?
Phillips: “No. We are always going to have some guys on the bubble, but they are guys we feel comfortable with that will get things done. Every year there will be somebody on the bubble. Nothing tragic right now. We have guys doing what they are supposed to be doing, and that’s the most important thing.”
Question: How has sophomore linebacker Avery Williamson adjusted, and what could his role be next season?
Phillips: “He will be competing for starting middle linebacker with Ronnie Sneed. He definitely deserves to play some. If he doesn’t win the job, he is one of those guys that deserves to play. We have to continue to bring him along, because he is going to be a huge factor in this program for some time.”