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A Youthful Comparison: Tide Vs Cats (And Why This Writer Thinks Phillips Deserves Another Year)

Kentucky’s Joker Phillips has spent the week reminding folks in the Bluegrass State that his team features 72 freshmen and sophomores.  Here at MrSEC, we got our first email from a UK fan about this on Sunday… after Phillips followed up his team’s 32-31 overtime loss to Western Kentucky with the statement.

Well, since mentioning Phillips’ remark again yesterday, we’ve received several more emails as well as one “Don’t give me that crap” response in our comment box.  Every single one of these responses — the emails and the comment — have shared one similarity.  They all claim that Alabama has just as many young players as Kentucky.  (Why, it’s as if someone’s posted that on a messageboard and the anti-Phillips crowd are sharing it.  But we all know that would never happen.)

Interested, I grabbed a pen and paper, took a look at each squad’s two-deep roster for the upcoming weekend and found the following:

 

Alabama has 22 freshmen and sophomores in its two-deep.  Kentucky has 24.  Pretty similar.

But…

Alabama has three sophomores starting on offense with no freshman starters.  Kentucky has four sophomores starting on offense as well as three freshmen or redshirt freshmen.

On defense, both teams have three sophomore starters.

So in terms of starters, UK is starting 10 first- or second-year players while UA starts just six.  At least according to my quickie, cocktail napkin math.  I could be off by a player as I didn’t have time to take my shoes off and use my toes to help with my cipherin’.

 

Now, do I personally believe Phillips to be the man to fix what’s been ailing UK football for decades?  No, I do not.  But I do believe he deserves another year to see how his young players develop next season.  Another year to prove me and many others wrong.  I don’t believe he’ll get that year as we now live in a world where coaches are fired after two or three seasons, but I think he should get another year.  Mainly because my gut could be wrong about him (the guy did end the Cats’ long losing streaks to Steve Spurrier and Tennessee).  I’ve also written on this site for years that young teams tend to get their rumps kicked.

And Phillips — at least by my count — has more youngsters playing major roles on his team than Saban does on his.  (As if an Alabama-to-Kentucky comparison is fair to in the first place.  Might as well compare the Wildcats to the Pittsburgh Steelers.)

 


18 comments
UK Grad Hero
UK Grad Hero

UK grad here. UK football has always been mediocre/terrible. UK football will always be mediocre/terrible. Get out of the SEC UK football, you have zero business in that conference.

ColonelSteve
ColonelSteve

Still feel Joker deserves another year?  He flat out gave up today against Florida, it's one thing when your team is young, it's another when the head coach is a spineless quitter

BobKat
BobKat

Normally, I would agree with MrSEC in that Joker Phillips should be given the rest of this season and next to turn this program around.  "Normally" refers to a head coach that had to start from scratch with a program that was losing more games than it was winning and obviously having difficulty competing with its schedule.  These do not apply to Joker.  He was on Brooks' staff for at least 5 years before he was promoted to head coach.  His jobs were recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator, and associate head coach (or, if you prefer, "head-coach-in waiting").  The players that Joker inherited were all signed by him.  A competent staff was already in place (which he almost completely replaced in the first 2 years).  The program had been to 4 consecutive bowl games (admittedly, not very glamorous bowls, but bowls nonetheless) - unprecedented in UK football history.  Joker's primary mission was to maintain continuity and raise the program to the next level - and actually compete in the brutal SEC East.  In this, he has failed miserably. 

Yes, Rich Brooks deserves an asterisk for his first 3 years because he took over a program (when very few qualified candidates wanted it) that had been crushed by one of the most severe set of sanctions ever levied by the NCAA against any Div. I-A (FBS) football program.  Not so for Joker.  The short-handed recruiting classes have all passed through the system. 

Joker says he has a young team - the data tend to confirm it.  I've heard this excuse for years, UK seems to always have a young team.  Why?  Could it be that the players already on the roster cannot compete with the schedule, and the staff hopes that the new guys can do better?  Admittedly, recruiting rankings are highly subjective and debatable - but there exists a positive correlation between recruiting rankings and performance on the field.  When you are nearly always in the bottom 25% of the recruiting rankings (like UK), your record will reflect that. 

Lastly, I wish to refute the racism accusation.  Little known fact: UK was the first SEC school to integrate its football program.  UK was the second SEC school to hire an African-American head coach (after Sylvester Croom at Miss. St.).  These are facts, feel free to check them. 

Paris10
Paris10

Joker and his staff make less than half of what Calipari is paid each year.

The athletic director over the last seven years has alotted 14 million for facilities. Two million a year. About a third of Cal's salary each year.

So where's the committment from the athletic director? Recruiting budget last or near the bottom every year.

Either commit to get better or admit you don't give a sh-t

Simple

You can dress them pretty but a sow isn't going to win a beauty pagent

RogeStuc
RogeStuc

Recruit, recruit, recruit...something Joker obviously has had no success with.  That is why he continues to whine about playing younger people.  He and his staff haven't recruited like they should and he's had to settle for 2-3 star recruits, while Saban gets 4-5's.  Alabama may start fewer freshmen/sophomores, but they play many of them, whether they "start" or not. Bama' has 4-5 star athletes playing along side the younger ones, while UK has to play 2-3's (with an occasional 4) with the younger players.  Both schools in lots of ways have the same opportunities, but Joker has failed to capitalize on his opportunities.

BigKatHead
BigKatHead like.author.displayName 1 Like

Count me as another UK fan tired of Joker's excuse making (don't forget, he was the recruiting coordinator under Pawpaw Brooks) and this team is entirely a reflection of him and his recruiting decisions (and failures inherent therein).  The number of players that he has brought into the program over the years who failed to remain in the program/produce is a tragedy, and something that a marginal football program can not afford if it is going to challenge its more stable/productive SEC brethren.  The administration needs to finally quit casing the SEC welfare checks they have been receiving over the year and Invest in the program, or the fans will not (as evidenced this year).  Football mediocrity is no longer acceptable, even as a bridge between basketball seasons.

JeffInLex
JeffInLex

@MrSEC Well, Joker has 1 more year on his contract with an option for a 5th @. If he is back next year, does that obligate UK for year 5?

Statesman1
Statesman1

Fitz Hill's book "Crackback" explains the UK situation.

84vol
84vol

 @Statesman1

 I know this book very well. What in this book has anything to do with the UK problem of recruiting and having a winning program?

Bubba Gump
Bubba Gump

Rich Brooks at Kentucky

2003 4-8 and 1-7 : Lost to Louisville and everybody in the SEC except Mississippi State

2004 2-9 and 1-7 : Lost to Louisville and everybody in the SEC except Vanderbilt

2005 3-8 and 2-6 : Lost to Louisville and everybody in the SEC except Mississippi State and Vanderbilt

2006 8-4 and 4-4 : Lost to Louisville but beat Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and GEORGIA : Beat Clemson in bowl game to finish 8-5

 

Joker Philiips at Kentucky

2010 6-6 and 2-6 : Beat Louisville, beat Vanderbilt, and beat South Carolina (first UK win against a Steve Spurrier team ever) : Lost bowl game to finish 6-7

2011 5-7 and 2-6 : Lost to Louisville and everybody in the SEC except Ole Miss and TENNESSEE (first UT win since the Reagan administration)

2012 ?-? and ?-?

 

The issue is not the age of the underclassmen but how to compete in the SEC with fewer assets and more liabilities?

 

Rich Brooks had 4 decent years - well exceptional by UK standards - but he had 3 awful years before that. The issue for UK is how to get 4-6 SEC wins a season instead of 1-3 and for that to happen other SEC east schools must fall first. Just changing the coach will not fix the rest of the issues and what young coach would replace Joker with greater success?

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

I didn't realize how similar Brooks' and Phillips' records were through the first 2 years.  A loss to WKU was pretty bad, but UK is not quite the hefty program that it should think of firing its coach so early.  I think 4 years is a minimum for a program like Kentucky.  This should be the approach if for no more reason than UK shouldn't expect that firing Phillips will lead to the hire of anyone truly better.  If you're only going to get 3 years to build a program at a place like UK then what top notch coaching prospect is going to want to jump in to that situation?  Any good prospects out there would be wiser to wait on better or at least more patient programs out there to come calling.  It's a matter of perspective.That is unless they are planning on getting Willie Taggert...who appears to be pretty solid.

nashorn99
nashorn99

 @AllTideUp

 Everyone forgets the scholarship limitations that Brooks had to deal with as well. He was on that thing called probation. Funny thing that how we were mired in it for awhile and he turned us around and got us to a number of bowls. The problem being recruiting. It never picked up after four in a row bowl games. Games we played against very good teams. People also don't want to remember Joker Phillips has been in this program for 13 years now.  If the recruiting hasn't picked up under him by now, if he can't show he isn't able to coach after 3 years as a HC, why does he need a fourth year. Good grief a 14th year just prolongs the agony.  Brooks showed the fanbase it can be done here at UK.  We don't want to regress with Joker and we have and are. Take into account every SEC team in the South is modernizing their facilities as fast as they can in the 30-70million range and UK football spends 200k and anyone wonders why UK football fans are outraged????

 

Is Bobby Petrino the answer for UK, don't know, but I do know one thing, until he is asked, and if he accepts, everyone across the South will realize UK has gotten serious about football.  The excitement for UK football would go thru the roof. Mitch Barnhart should think on that.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

@Bubba GumpI hadn't even thought about the Petrino-Louisville connection in light of UK being the in-state rival.  That would definitely be a bad move and that is only in addition to all the instability that Petrino brings anyway.  Arkansas, Atlanta Falcons, Louisville....Petrino is always more trouble than he's worth.

 

Willie Taggert might be the best move UK can make if they fire Phillips at the end of the year.  There are a few other coaches with solid credentials at lower levels that might jump at the chance to be in the SEC.  But being in the SEC and not having SEC caliber resources to compete with isn't going to look attractive to top candidates.  Someone mentioned UK's recruiting budget earlier and that is an excellent point.  UT consistently has the highest recruiting budget in the conference and Tennessee has slightly more in-state talent than Kentucky.  Add on to that the fact that UT doesn't have a serious in-state rival.  Kentucky has to kick up its recruiting or they will never have a chance.

 

And maybe bring in someone with a unique offense to help counter the talent disparity?  June Jones?

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

 @nashorn99   It's a fair point that Phillips didn't have to deal with sanctions, but there's still a lot of factors in a decision like that.

Bubba Gump
Bubba Gump

 @nashorn99  @AllTideUp 

@ AllTideUp, I wonder about Willie Taggert to UK as well with what he has done at WKU. The question is jumping up to the level. Kentucky went that route with BCG and it blew up in their face. I am not saying Joker is the solution but fans in the Commonwealth would do well to consider who would actually take the Kentucky job which may be the most thankless in all of D I football.

 

@ nashorn99, Do you really think UK would risk Petrino with the NCAA headquarters just up the interstate? The better solution may be an older coach with less baggage because you know the Louisville alumni will know where Bobby buries the skeletons. Not sure UK wants a high probability NCAA investigation of football in 2 - 4 years. Arkansas has about a 2 million dollar coaching advantage over UK and Alabama has a coaching budget more than double what UK has. At almost 2 million for Joker UK is already in the top 1/3 of coaching pay. The problem is most every team ahead of that has a better college football history which means a very limited pool of realistic future coaches. You have the risk of going to FCS or lower FBS for a young coach like Mumme or finding and older coach like Brooks who will roll with the punches.

 

 

Danny
Danny

  A young SEC team should be able to beat a Sun Belt team. Joker has been here more than 2 years so if we're young some of that blame goes to him. Bottom line is unless you're on probation, you don't lose to a Sun Belt team in your third year.

Tyler B
Tyler B

john - Hope all is well. What I don't think you're taking into account is the dwindling fan base, which is the most important thing when talking about Phillips returning. Season tickets sales have fallen a combined 30% durind the past two years, and another year of Joker will further erode the already-scattering fan base. Joker doesn't deserve another year... and nor do the UK fans.

 

Thanks for the great site!

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