Kentucky football not a ‘Joke’ anymore
Posted: Friday, July 22, 2011 6:26 pm
By: By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Kentucky coach Joker Phillips can sell recruits on a measure of newfound consistency with five straight bowl trips, but he can also point to the players those guys have enjoyed watching on TV.
Like Randall Cobb and before him, Andre’ Woodson, Jared Lorenzen, Keenan Burton and Rafael Little. Guys that Phillips says were “the face of the program” during their careers.
The Wildcats have had their share of entertaining, playmaking stars even if they’re still trying to find a way into the top half of the Southeastern Conference’s East Division.
“Being able to sell the guys that we just talked about has given us a chance to get into some homes, because other players like other players,” Phillips said Thursday at SEC media days. “They like watching dynamic players.”
Cobb was certainly one of those, a do-it-all receiver who was a second-round draft pick of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. And Phillips points to Cobb’s performance and the attention he received as helping the Wildcats land five wide receivers in the latest signing class.
Kentucky has carried over that momentum, having already possibly filled out more than half of its next class with 13 verbal commitments.
The more immediate task is finding a way to replace Cobb, quarterback Mike Hartline and running back Derrick Locke.
Junior quarterback Morgan Newton inherits an offense that lost those playmakers but has four starting offensive linemen returning. And the fifth, right tackle Billy Joe Murphy, is a senior who has nine career starts.
“People say that we’ve lost a lot of guys but we’ve got a lot of guys back on the offensive line,” guard Stuart Hines said. “That’s a great start for an offense.”
The Wildcats had a string of four straight winning seasons end with a BBVA Compass Bowl loss to Pittsburgh culminating a 6-7 record.
But Phillips and Kentucky’s marketing department have made the team’s theme “Rise” going into his second season. It’s at the top of the cover of the media guide.
That’s tough to do in the SEC East against teams such as Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
“I think we’re really confident,” Newton said. “I think we’re a team that has kind of flown under the radar, which is nice. We’ve got a lot of guys that are really talented. We’ve got a lot of guys that work hard.”
Phillips said he stressed the qualities he thinks it takes to build success in the SEC in the first team meeting after the bowl defeat: maturity, attitude and focus.
“That’s what it’s going to take for us to continue to rise in this league,” he said.