Football is getting closer and closer, and Coach Joker Phillips has been all over the place lately, promoting his team and interacting with fans. Saturday was just another part of that, as he and the rest of his coaching staff hosted the 2012 Women’s Clinic. Ladies, I would more than encourage you to go to this event next year; this was my first year attending, but by all accounts that I heard today, it keeps getting bigger and better every year, and it’s not something you want to miss. Let’s get down to the details:
–What do all UK fans love? Swag bags. Got ‘em. Next…
–The morning started out with the defensive coaches speaking to the crowd about their particular duties. First up was Rick Minter, who explained his defensive scheme, describing his 3-4/4-3 looks, what a cover-2 defense is, etc. His guys’ job, Minter said, is to get the ball and create “takeaways,” not turnovers: “If we call them turnovers, it seems like we’re waiting on the offense to make their mistakes. It’s a mindset — we’re gonna take the freaking thing.” His focus for this year is for his team to be known as a fast defense that will “pursue their tails off.” With all the hybrid looks and various formations Minter will throw at us, that’s probably the reputation this UK defense will have.
–David Turner stressed toughness in his guys (defensive linemen), as these are the players who have to get hit on every single play: “I’ve been doing this for 20-some years, 26 years now, and I start out the first practice of the season with the same thing every year: ‘Men, today is the last day you’re gonna feel good.’”
–Linebackers coach Chuck Smith compared Avery Williamson’s work ethic to Wesley Woodyard’s. He said it’s important to realize that people like Danny Trevathan’s shoes can be filled — Trevathan replaced Braxton Kelley before him, who replaced Woodyard before him. It’s a cycle, and Smith is looking for Williamson to continue that process.
–After the defensive coaches’ talks, volunteers were grouped into offensive and defensive teams where they ran some of the same defensive schemes the Cats used against Tennessee (we got to watch film of those plays, and then the ladies’ version of the same play). Here’s a video of what that looked like:
Afterwards, special teams coach Greg Nord took everyone out to the field and ran some special teams drills. After the drills were done, everyone could choose to go to different stations where they could catch punts, kick field goals, etc.
–Coming back to the stadium concourse after the special teams portion of the day, we saw that several players had arrived — mostly freshmen, but also Aaron Boyd, Morgan Newton, Max Smith, etc. They demo’d the Nike gear all players receive, jerseys, equipment, etc. Each time a UK player steps on the field, he’s wearing about $750 worth of equipment, including helmet, padded undershirt, cleats, pads, etc. Players also (very patiently, I might add) signed autographs and took pictures with anyone who wanted them.
–Director of Football Operations Nolan Jones and newly-hired Jeremy Jarmon (who simply said “I’m glad to be home” when he got the mike) gave a behind-the-scenes presentation detailing the itinerary for the typical road trip, the sheer volume of food eaten by these guys before games, etc. Here’s a hint for the food portion: 180 8-oz New York strips, 140 6-oz chicken parmesan plates and 50 pieces of grilled chickens — and that’s just the meat portion. Jones on whether he’s ever run out of food for a UK team: “The day I run out of food is the day you learn my name: Director of Football Operations fired.”
–For you hard-core news folks, here are some tidbits about the new guys: According to Randy Sanders, two true freshmen could contribute at wide receiver – DeMarcus Sweat and AJ Legree (also Daryl Collins as a redshirt freshman). At running back, Sanders said he could see one or both of the freshman running backs contributing (those are Justin Taylor and Dyshawn Mobley). Ronnie Shields, a sophomore, will continue to develop at tight end as well.
–Sanders also made an interesting comment when asked about whether the media/fan negativity ever gets to the coaching staff and players. Sanders said that he had two daughters, a 16- and 18-year old, and “they’re kind of used to hearing how stupid dad is during the season.” When the negativity reaches a nasty level, as it has been lately, it’s not just the football program that is affected.
–As far as Louisville trash talk goes, Sanders said, “If you have to use that stuff to motivate your players for Louisville, you probably don’t have the right kind of guys.” The Cats, by all accounts, are fired up for this matchup even without the bulletin board material, and are ready to prove something on the field come September 2.
–After wide receiver and running back drills on the field, Joker came out for a final wrap-up of the day. He told a story of a big 300-pound lineman coming into his office after a summer camp, being offered a scholarship and “bawling” after receiving the news (this happened on two separate occasions). From this, Joker went on to say how much his players care about the fans — that they’re here at UK for the fans, and the only way those players can fix the negativity from those fans is to work their butts off every single day in the 100-degree heat to get better. Performing on the field is the only way to change the attitude surrounding the program, and these players are doing everything they can this summer to do just that. They lift at 7 a.m., come back at 3 p.m. to “run until they can’t run anymore” and generally live, breathe and eat (a lot of) football.
–Overall, an absolutely awesome event with a perfect balance of informative sessions with hands-on participation. The interaction between fans and the players/coaching staff was fantastic today, and it’s truly a unique experience for all.
–Also, I’ll be coming by tomorrow with some behind-the-scenes pictures of the Nutter Training Facility.
It’s almost football time in the Bluegrass, and I couldn’t be happier… @AshleyScoby