It’s safe to say the football team has been through its up’s and down’s over the last handful of years, with some of the greatest moments in history preceding some of the most frustrating moments fans may remember. We all like to be armchair coaches, thinking we could do a better job sitting on our sofa at home. While that may be true for a play or two, Joker isn’t a joke; believe it or not, he has a plan. He is putting a system in place, and building his program around his guys.
Going against that notion, however, Larry Vaught received some very intriguing feedback from a former player on some of the biggest problems Kentucky football faces in terms of rising in the Southeastern Conference to be a legitimate contender. The former player asked not to be identified, as not to be disloyal to the university.
Hearing this from a fan is one thing, but from a player from the program is something completely different. Some of this may be shocking to the believers, or affirmation to the doubters. But if any of this is true, it may be a lose-lose situation for Joker.
Truth is (coach) Joker (Phillips) is fighting an uphill battle. Coach (Rich) Brooks got lucky with in-state talent in (Andre) Woodson, (Jacob) Tamme, (Corey) Peters and (Keenan) Burton. And some low rated prospects turned out great with (Jeremy) Jarmon and Myron (Pryor) and Trevard (Lindley). Look at Randall Cobb. He was such a blessing for the program, but if Tennessee was on him earlier he probably would have been a Vol.
It is true that Joker’s job recruiting in the SEC isn’t easy. It’s the northern-most school in the conference, and the elite talent down in Florida or Georgia rarely wants to come north to play football. But this former player did hit one thing big. Joker has to land local talent. If you can’t recruit in your own backyard, how can you really recruit outside of it? And Charlie Strong at Louisville has really turned up the heat for recruiting in-state as well, another reason this former player says Joker is fighting an uphill battle. But there’s a catch, he says…
When you look at the talent produced by (Kentucky) most years, it’s not good. Even in a good year it is not like any other SEC state.
This is a common excuse for Kentucky not being able to turn the corner in becoming an elite program in both football and basketball; a program like Ohio State, Florida, or Texas. But look at it this way: if Boise State can recruit out of Idaho and create a winning football team, there’s no excuse for Kentucky to not be able to recruit from its home state and win games as well. Developing homegrown players can result in wins. Call it “luck,” but that is exactly what Rich Brooks did. He created a system that developed talent into something way bigger than they were projected to be.
How do you get those (five-star) kids? Honestly, for the life of me I don’t see how. Even a top kid in state, what would keep him from leaving for better weather down South and more established programs? How do you go into Alabama and recruit top five players? How do you beat Georgia or Auburn for players in their state? It’s almost impossible to get five-star players, even four-star players, to leave and come to UK.
Joker Phillips is a very good recruiter, and he had a lot of help from former assistant Tee Martin. He does have the ability to go outside the state and haul in good SEC players. He has pipelines building all over the south. It’s because of that Joker need to have the benefit of the doubt. Allow the talent to be pumped in, and his system of “SEC speed” to get put into motion. This may be a season of Joker coaching for his job, so inspiration, most importantly, must flourish.