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UK Coaches Bring Out The Ice Cream Man; We Bring Out The Van Halen

Yesterday’s first full day of practice resulted in a surprise visit from the ice cream man in Lexington.  Kentucky coach Joker Phillips wanted to reward his players for their hard work (and we’ll assume free ice cream isn’t an NCAA violation of some sort).  So after practice, the Wildcats got to gobble down some cold desserts.

Which is all just an excuse for me to post Van Halen’s version of an old blues song (from my long, long gone youth):

 

Van Halen – Van Halen – Ice Cream Man

 

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Auburn’s Chizik At The Podium – 7/18/12

Dan Mullen exceeded expectations.  Joker Phillips lived down to them.  What will Gene Chizik do?  Since arriving at Auburn, he’s quickly become the one guy in the league most media folks dread seeing step to the mic.  Not because he’s a bad guy, but because he doesn’t show much personality at these types of events.  To be honest, it might be just as entertaining if they simply took his black leather jacket and hung it behind the SEC dais for 30 minutes.

At any rate, his time is now…

* Good start.  Chizik opens with a thanks for all the thoughts, prayers and support that poured into Auburn following the shooting deaths of two ex-Auburn footballers a month ago.  Nice touch.  Very classy.  Heartfelt.

* Says the Chick-fil-A Bowl win last season was a “big moment” for the growth of his young players’ confidence.

* The coach says his team has more depth and more experience than last season.

* Chizik points out that his senior class has averaged 10 wins per year for three years, they haven’t lost a bowl game and they’ve won a BCS crown.  (Much of that thanks to the signature of Cam Newton and his one incredible season, of course.)

* Scot Loeffler’s offense won’t be “completely different” from what Auburn’s done in the past.

* Brian VanGorder and Chizik are “on the exact same page” philosophically.

* Chizik says the recruiting class he’s putting together now is “very pivotal” for finishing off the foundation that his regime has been putting down in Auburn.

* Auburn’s coach is benefiting from following Joker Phillips.  He doesn’t seem nearly as drab as he normally does.

* Chizik isn’t worried about winning ugly.  He said he’s proud of the fact that his guys have found a way to win games decided by seven points or less.  “At the end of the day, it’s all about winning” whether that’s “by 24 points or by one point.”

* Asked about defensive end Corey Lemonier, Chizik said his player “has got the art of pass rushing down,” but that he’s got room to improve in the run game.

* The quarterback position is “up for grabs.”  Chizik said Kiehl Frazier was used in key parts of games last year so he wouldn’t be awed by playing in big games at big times this season.  The coach said he won’t put a timeline on naming a starter, but “the sooner the better.”

* As for kids who flip-flop their commitments, Chizik said some guys get caught up in the emotion of a visit.  He said — correctly — that

* Mizzou and A&M aren’t getting “the credit they deserve.”

* “Gary Pinkel’s one of the best football coaches in the country.”

* “Missouri and Texas A&M aren’t coming into the SEC with their hat in their hand… These are two dang good football teams with two dang good football coaches.”  Finally he added, “Overall, Kevin Sumlin and Gary Pinkel, they can coach.”

* Asked about Auburn moving to the SEC East someday, Chizik wouldn’t bite.  He said geographic reasons are not the only reasons divisions are set up the way they are.  Didn’t sound like he’d really be in favor of moving AU to the East.  (Good thing, because that’s not going to happen anytime soon.)

* Like Dan Mullen, Chizik — who’s also at his 4th Media Days event — seems much more relaxed and comfortable this year.  Not nearly as blah as he’s been in the past.

 

Our overall grade for Chizik’s “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… We’ll give him a 5.  He didn’t have one-liners like Steve Spurrier, but he was much more at ease than he’s appeared to be in past years.  The expectations were low because there have been sessions when a stump might’ve been more interesting to listen to, but overall we’ve got to give Chizik credit for improvement.  He was open and honest and he didn’t ramble with long-winded answers as he often has in the past.

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Kentucky’s Phillips At The Podium – 7/18/12

When discussing the usual SEC yawners (Gene Chizik and Dan Mullen) earlier today, I left someone of the list.  Joker Phillips.  In itself, that should tell you just how entertaining Kentucky’s coach usually is at these events.

Well, he’s up next to talk about his Wildcats.  Here’s hoping for a Mullenesque improvement over last year’s session.  (Not that media Q&As have a thing to do with winning football games, of course, but if we’ve got to listen to them… they might as well be interesting.)

* Phillips says he’s excited for 2012 after finishing the 2011 season with two wins and two losses.  A lot of young guys made plays for UK in those last four games.

* He said UK’s win over Tennessee allowed his team to achieve one goal on the season — win its last game.

* Oops.  I already nodded off.  Phillips seems like a nice guy and who knows what he’s like one-on-one in a living room, but he’s just brutal.  He wanted to talk about his two new assistants and for a second it seemed he forgot their names.

* Phillips says he’s got some good young talent on his team.

* Listening to Phillips, I wonder if he’s brought in as a motivational speaker in Hell.  Again, he might be great in every other aspect of the job, but yikes this is brutal.

* The coach says “the best league just got better” with Missouri and Texas A&M coming into the SEC.  Asked about further expansion, Phillips said that’s up to the SEC’s “unbelievable commissioner.”

* Phillips said the way UK beat Tennessee last year was more important than beating Tennessee.  That low-scoring win showed his team that they don’t have to win by putting up 500 yards and 35 points.

* He said the success of Kentucky basketball has helped sell his football programs.  “We want to hitch our wagon to our basketball program?”

* Phillips said that John Calipari has been helpful to him.  He said Calipari actually called him on speaker phone recently to talk to the coach and a two-sport athlete Phillips had on campus.

* Asked about his hot seat status, Phillips said, “Well, I’m not sitting down right now, so ain’t nothing hot.”  Drew a few laughs.  Good line.  “I don’t have time to listen to that stuff.”

* Phillips says to take care of his program at Kentucky, he’d be against a nine-game schedule.  (Why are people asking this of coaches?  Of course they’re against it.  The SEC’s coaches were against a seven-game schedule at one time.  Then against an eight-game schedule.  And against an SEC Championship Game.  Nick Saban may be the one guy who’ll say he’s open to playing nine.)

 

Our overall grad for Phillips’ “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 2 on a scale of 1-5.  He just doesn’t seem comfortable in these types of settings.  He comes across as a nice guy who you really want to do well, but overall he’s right down there with Chizik in terms of stiffness.

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SEC Headlines 4/21/2011

1. Bill Byrne is on the way out as athletic director at Texas A&M.  School president R. Bowen Loftin: “We’ll honor the terms of that contract, but what his role will be vis-à-vis another AD coming in … what can I say?”

2. Jon Solomon: “It’s no coincidence Auburn now sells NFL concepts. The factory down the road in Tuscaloosa, run by ex-NFL coach Nick Saban, continues to churn out elite NFL prospects at a rate never seen before in SEC history.”

3. Spring game report cards for Alabama and Auburn.

4. Eli Manning will be on hand today as Ole Miss fans get a glimpse of the Hugh Freeze offense.

5. $25 dollars get Mississippi State fans a ticket to the spring game and a Sugarland concert.

6. What’s the difference for Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray heading into this year’s Orange and White game?  “Just wasn’t mature last year, didn’t take it for what it’s worth.”

7. Tennessee wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Darin Hinshaw has a new contract. Five Vols who need to shine this fall.

8. Today’s Red-White game at Arkansas is an audition for players – and coaches.

9. In the wake of the Bobby Petrino firing, former Arkansas linebacker Brock Haman may transfer to an Arizona school. Current Razorbacks try to stay focused.

10. Six questions for the Razorbacks to answer.

11. Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel and his wife have separated.

12. Joker Phillips thinks his Kentucky team practices better in front of a crowd.

13. Vanderbilt’s spring practice answered a few questions for the Commodores heading into the fall.

14. Could be the worst NFL draft for Florida players in nearly twenty years. No players expected to be taken in first three rounds.

15. Even in April, college football produces entertainment value.

16. NCAA president Mark Emmert: ”If 14 months ago … we had said this next cycle we will watch the firing of the head coaches of Ohio State, Penn State, North Carolina, Tennessee basketball, Arkansas — all fabulously successful coaches on the floor and on the field — to see those five men fired for misdeeds, not for failures on the court or on the field, none of us would have believed it.”

17. (Urban) “Meyer is a great coach in many respects, but he’s awfully fickle and a classic frontrunner.”

Extra:

18. If this mock draft compilation is correct, more than a third of the first round of the NFL draft will come from the SEC.

19.  When it comes to running back in the draft, Alabama’s Trent Richardson is at the top of the class.

20. They have a $60 million stadium and a new head coach in Terry Bowden.  So what, exactly, is Akron up to?

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UK Ready To “Shock The World”

The folks in Lexington are optimistic.  About football.

Well, at least the football team is optimistic.  Take these comments from sophomore linebacker Alvin “Bud” Dupree:


“We’re going to be a surprise team.  People don’t really expect Kentucky to have a good football team, but we’re going to work hard this spring and in the offseason.  We’re going to get bigger, faster, stronger. … We’re going to be a good team and shock the world, shock the fans.”


My first thought after reading that quote was of the movie “Patton.”  When an underling tells Field Marshall Erwin Rommel that he’s “optimistic” about the Germans’ chances against combined US and UK forces, Rommel replies coolly: “You can afford to be an optimist.  I can’t.”

But in UK’s case, head coach Joker Phillips — while not quite so exuberant as his young linebacker — also promised improvement. 

“Don’t give up on this football team,” he said when asked what he would tell Wildcat fans.  “We’ll battle; we’ll fight; we’ll scratch; we’ll claw.  Just don’t give up on this football team.”

Got that, Cat fans?

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Three UK Defenders No Longer With Football team

Two left on their own.  One was shown the door.  But overall, Kentucky is down three players from its defense today.

According to The Lexington Herald-Leader, defensive end Justin Henderson and linebacker Tim Patterson left of their own free will.  Henderson played in four games last season as a redshirt freshman.  Patterson was running as a third-team linebacker this spring.

Delic was given the heave-ho by Joker Phillips for the dreaded “unspecified violation of team rules.”  Like Patterson, he did not play last season for the Wildcats.

Henderson was listed as a second-string end.

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Father Of Ex-UK Football Player Doesn’t Know Why His Son Was Booted

Kentucky cornerback Daylen Hall was recently dismissed from Kentucky’s football program.  Joker Phillips would only say that the player had committed a “violation of team rules.”  The player’s father learned of his son’s departure via a radio report and that he’s not heard a word from Phillips or UK officials about what rule his son violated:

 

“That’s pretty shocking.  We’re still trying to figure out what the issues were and try to get the young man going right again.  I really don’t know (what happened), to be quite honest.  We have no idea what’s going on.”

 

Darron Hall isn’t sure if his son will transfer elsewhere or not.  As recently as December 21st Phillips had said the younger Hall would compete for a starting cornerback spot this spring.

Hmmm.

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Signee: UK To Get Black Helmets To Go With Black Uniforms

Look closely as the photo at left.  It was during that game that Kentucky’s almost-all-black football uniform became a staple of the program.  When Kentucky took down Tennessee last November — ending a 26-year losing streak to the Vols — the black and blue look was truly beatified.

Now, if a UK signee is to be believed, the black ensemble will be given a matching black lid next fall.

KentuckySportsRadio.com reports that Patrick Graffree — a defensive line signee from Cecilia, Kentucky — tweeted today that Joker Phillips has already told his seniors-to-be that the Cats will add some black helmets to their mix of wardrobe options in 2012.

Cool.  ’Cause nobody’s adding black to their uniforms these days.  (Sigh.)

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UK Loses WR Coach Martin To Southern Cal, Kiffin

Lane Kiffin did a number on Tee Martin’s alma mater, Tennessee.  Now he’s doing a number on Kentucky by nabbing Martin from Joker Phillips’ coaching staff.

Martin — considered an up-and-coming coach and recruiter — has texted a number of media outlets to let them know he would be departing Lexington for Los Angeles.  He will replace Ted Gilmore on Kiffin’s staff at Southern Cal.

A UK spokesperson said Phillips and AD Mitch Barnhart “tried very hard” to keep Martin.  But to no avail.

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News From The SEC Coaching Carousel

Just a few nuggets, tidbits, rumors and, yes, actual news items to mention on the SEC coaching carousel this morning:


* Joker Phillips has filled out his coaching staff at Kentucky with the official hiring of Mike Cassity as the Wildcats’ defensive backs coach.  Cassity’s replaces Steve Brown who went from defensive coordinator to co-defensive coordinator to gone in the span of two years.

Cassity has been at Marshall as secondary coach since 2009.  He began his coaching career at Kentucky and handled DB duties there in 1980 and 1981.  Joker Phillips was a freshman with the ’81 Cats.


* As noted in our headlines section and on our Facebook page yesterday — are you following us on Facebook? — the University of Florida has officially hired Jeff Dillman to be their new strength and conditioning coach.

Dillman is the former head of physical conditioning at the IMG Performance Institute in Bradenton, Florida.  Previously, he served on the strength staff at LSU (for their 2003 BCS championship) and he was the head strength coach at Appalachian State when they won back-to-back national crowns in the FCS (2006 and 2007).

Dillman also served as strength coach at Appalachian State when when they won He replaces Mickey Marotti who recently left the Gator program to join ex-coach Urban Meyer at Ohio State.


* At Tennessee, Derek Dooley has three slots to fill on his staff and that’s making recruiting a bit more challenging.  It’s been widely reported that UT has targeted Clemson’s Kevin Steele, who almost took the same job with the Vols two offseasons ago.  Whether he would be willing to leave the ACC champs to join a head coach on the hot seat in Knoxville is anyone’s guess.  Steele’s co-defensive coordinator at Clemson — Charlie Harbison — is also a name to watch.

Former LSU and North Carolina special teams (and defensive line) coach Joe Robinson has been mentioned in connection with UT’s open special teams coordinator slot.  The Vols also have an opening at the linebacker position.

Keep an eye on current assistant Lance Thompson.  He may be a fallback choice as UT’s coordinator, but he’s also coached both the D-line and linebackers in Knoxville, which might give Dooley some flexbility.


* Kevin Sumlin continues to fill out his staff at Texas A&M.  According to multiple reports, Kliff Kingsbury will serve as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.  Former Kansas co-offensive coordinator David Beaty is expected to join the Aggie staff as receivers coach.  BJ Anderson will move from Houston to cover the offensive line duties.

On defense, three names bear watching: Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi, Northwestern’s Mike Hanwitz (who just allowed 33 points and 300+ yards passing to A&M in a bowl game), and Chris Wilson of Mississippi State.

Wilson coached with Sumlin on Oklahoma’s staff from 2005 through 2008. 


* With success comes interest from other schools.  New Illinois head coach Tim Beckman has raided Vanderbilt for receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Chris Beatty.  Beatty — who joined James Franklin’s staff after a successful stint at West Virginia — will be the co-offensive coordinator for the Illini.

Franklin said, “We did some things to try to keep him, but I wouldn’t do anything to mess up the chemistry on our staff right now.”  The coach said he is already interviewing four candidates to replace Beatty.


* At Auburn, Gene Chizik is still working to find to replacements for offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ted Roof.  One candidate to take over the Tigers’ defense is now off the table.

Florida State announced yesterday that D-coordinator Mark Stoops has been given a new contract worth $568,850 per year, which is nearly a $130,000-a-year raise.  According to The Tallahassee Democrat, both Auburn and Texas A&M made runs at Stoops.  Some reports have claimed Chizik offered Stoops somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million to come to the Plains.


* Current Alabama receivers coach Mike Groh continues to be mentioned as a possible replacement for departing offensive coordinator Jim McElwain.  Nick Saban has said he’s more focused on the BCS title game — naturally — than on filling his coordinator slot.  Saban also runs a pretty tight-lipped search.  So it’s possible that Groh is getting write-ups and being mentioned on the Tuscaloosa grapevine because there are no other leads to follow at the moment.


* Hugh Freeze continues to put together his first staff at Ole Miss.  For those who haven’t been keeping track, his current line-up of assistants reads as follows: Dave Wommack (defensive coordinator and safeties), Tom Allen (linebackers), Chris Kiffin (defensive line), Derrick Nix (retained as running backs coach), Matt Luke (offensive line), and Maurice Harris (tight ends and recruiting coordinator).

Freeze was unable to hang on to Gunter Brewer who left to join Larry Fedora’s first staff at North Carolina.

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