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Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky: Recruiting battle

Why does Joker Phillips deserve more time as head coach at Kentucky? He was asked this question in his Monday press conference. His answer, “We got 72 freshmen and sophomores in this program. We just played a program that has 50 juniors and seniors in their program.”

This quote really shocked me. Does that sound legit? To me is sound like a gimme-answer for an inexcusable loss. And to Joker’s credit, I think he understands how bad the situation really is. He added, “I get that we got to be better than that that.” True enough.

Is the answer Joker gave — a mismatch of experience; his guys being out-smarted by savvy veterans from the Sun Belt — reason enough to comprehend and accept a loss to Western Kentucky? In my mind, Kentucky’s talent alone should be enough to overcome an experience gap. Though it can’t stack up to conference heavyweights like Alabama, LSU and others, Kentucky does have SEC-talent on its roster. So does it really matter that a Sun Belt team has 50 juniors and seniors?

I looked into Rivals rankings of the last four recruiting classes for Kentucky and Western Kentucky. Obviously significant roster turnover happens over the course of four seasons as players come and go. But this gives a good indication of what kind of talent both teams have coming in, and more importantly, how that talent is developed.

What I found is what you should expect: UK dominates WKU on the recruiting trail. Kentucky owns Western in all the high-ranking recruits, out-nabbing four-stars six to none, and three-stars 75 to 26. This only adds to the confusion in the loss suffered in Commonwealth Stadium to the Toppers.

It’s a rough translation from football to basketball, but earlier this year I did a study on experience versus talent in college basketball. What I found is that it’s all bogus. Neither experience nor talent means anything in deciding a winning formula. What determines a victor? I would argue the coach. I’ll leave you to your own interpretation of what makes a winning coach — but Willie Taggart must be doing something right with his players that are ranked so much lower than Joker’s. I think that became very obvious to a lot of people last Saturday.

Article written by Stuart Hammer

B.S. Broadcast Journalism from the University of Kentucky. @StuartHammerKSR

38 Comments for Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky: Recruiting battle



  1. DB11
    12:48 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Joker doesn’t develop players. Point blank period. At least not as well as Brooks did



  2. DoubleZeroMostel
    12:49 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    I’m amazed that we have 6 Four Star players in our program.



  3. UK Wildcat
    12:55 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Joker is a bad coach, Willie Taggart is a good coach.

    It really is that simple.



  4. Francious
    1:00 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Stars are just one small piece to the puzzle. Our guys might have been rated higher, but it was very clear who had the better athletes. They were bigger, faster, and stronger than us. That’s what is sad. Football is won in the trenches, and every year, we are woefully mismatched against most of our opponents.



  5. B-Rabbit
    1:01 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Of those six 4-star players, how many are left and what have they accomplished at UK? This has nothing to do with the story………just curious.



  6. Jon Lock
    1:01 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    I am not taking up for Joker when I say this, but Stuart, if you don’t think experience matters in football, and especially if you come to that conclusion because you think it doesn’t matters in basketball (which it does if your not a team that gets 5 star talent), then you really don’t know anything about the sport. This was serioulsy the dumbest aricle I have read on here.



  7. Papa
    1:02 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Miss me yet?



  8. tee
    1:08 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    RANKINGS ARE HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE…. JUST LOOK AT WHERE WILTJER WAS RANKED COMING OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL



  9. look at pictures
    1:09 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Just look at the photos from this blog post. Taggert looks like he is wondering why someone did what they did. Joker looks like he is wondering what he is doing.



  10. The Truth
    1:10 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Coach Cal took a team loaded with Freshmen and beat teams loaded with Juniors and Seniors. He beat UNC, Loserville, Indiana, Baylor etc. Joker is full of excuses and if we don’t get rid of him, UK will not likely win 10 games total in the next 5 years.



  11. Hey Hammer
    1:10 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Look at how many kids have transferred INTO WKU and how they were rated. It’s not an excuse for the loss, we shouldn’t have lost. But the concept that UK is full of young kids does play a role on the field and can lead to losses. The bigger issue was why we had two delay of game penalties both coming after change of possessions and the 12 men on the field issue. Those are the bad coaching plays. Rich Brooks was a good coach who built a decent program, but look back at his last two recruiting classes and how many of those kids are/were still at UK this/last year and you will see why Joker needs one more year before he should be judged. A major issue about attendence that hasn’t been discussed is that UK raised ticket prices and donation fees just as Joker took over the program. That (along with the losing) is a major reason that people aren’t showing up to the games. If we were good the prices would be justified but we aren’t and the ticket price increase came at a bad time for Joker’s future.



  12. Bandit
    1:12 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Do another study, comparing basketball & football is a bad analogy. Joker is done at UK, but he makes a good argument for another year. Look at Mark Richt at Georgia, who had several bad seasons, but is now back in the hunt. Unfortunately for Joker, he doesn’t have a past winning track record to keep the wolves at the door. I can’t see anyone replacing Joker that will be able to recruit better and will be able to get UK back to bowl faster. After the transfers, the new staff and system, and recruiting new blood, it will take a new coach 2-3 more years before he’ll have a real chance to go to a bowl. One step forward, two steps back.



  13. Mattd
    1:20 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Ty for this post Stuart. I’ve been griping for a while aobut our recruiting not matching our on field success. Interesting also is the disparity in recruiting from Brooks’ last two years and Joker’s first two. We’ve taken a step back in talent and in coaching. Also, per this information we should have plenty of relatively high ranked juniors, yet Joker states he has to play younger guys? If as the above as #6 states, experience matters a lot, then shouldnt our HEAD COACH realize this and not play a ton of freshmen?!?!?! Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, ‘our young guys are better so I have to play them, oh but we lost because we’re playing freshmen’. #6 is right, this isn’t basketball. That’s where his point ceases to be valid. Unlike in basketball, we didn’t have all our freshman turn pro after one year! Ergo, the 08 class should still be on the squad, and they should be playing. Joker simply cannot coach, and I haven’t seen a single post, article, or heard one statement from Matt Jones that would lead me to any other conclusion.



  14. Mattd
    1:21 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Ty for this post Stuart. I’ve been griping for a while about our recruiting not matching on field success. Interesting also is the disparity in recruiting from brooks last two years and jokers first two. We’ve taken a step back in talent and in coaching. Also, per this information we should have plenty of relatively high ranked juniors, ur joker is forced to play younger guys? If as the above poster stated, experience matters a lot, then shouldn’t our head coach realize that an not play the freshman?!?!?! Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, ‘our young guys are better so I have to play them, oh but we lost because we’re playing freshman. This isn’t basketball, our 08 and 09 class didn’t go pro after one year! They should still be on the squad. Joker simply cannot coach, an I haven’t seen a single post or heard one statement from Matt J that would lead me to any other conclusion.



  15. Mattd
    1:23 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Sorry for the double post, the one on my phone wouldnt post so i retyped it. Looks like it went through. Srry again.



  16. PaulMillerFord
    1:23 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    What if Coach Cal used youth as an excuse? Sorry Joker, you are in over your head and Mitch needs to pull you out before you take the program down. (If you haven’t already done so.)



  17. The Know
    1:26 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Everyone says recruiting has been better under Joker. When are people going to put 2 and 2 together? If recruiting is better, and on field product is worse, then it must be a lack of player development, AKA, COACHING!



  18. Dark Helmet
    1:26 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Stuart you guys keep leaving off the fact that the guy that got 3 picks against UK was a 5 or 4 Star depending on the service. The #1 safety according to ESPN. Jonathan Dowling http://espn.go.com/college-sports/football/recruiting/player/_/id/79009/jonathan-dowling
    or http://rivals.yahoo.com/footballrecruiting/football/recruiting/player-Jonathan-Dowling-93359 WKU also signed Demarcus Smith a 4 star QB last year and the 11th best QB.

    Also Antonio Andrews, Andrew Jackson, Quentarus Smith, Jack Doyle, Jonathon Dowling, are more talented than what UK has on the field now and that was obvious to witness. Another thing most of WKU’s players are from Florida – Charlie Strong’s players as well – there has to be correlation there.



  19. CatGrad7072
    1:31 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    16: Put 2 & 2 together; maybe that’s how we got the 4 star on the chart.



  20. Darren
    1:39 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Joker is so out of touch with reality, that even Mitt Romney thinks he’s Ridiculous!



  21. bluesince66
    1:46 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    ONCE AGAIN, Joker was named coach in waiting so there would not be a drop off in recruiting. Hasn’t Joker been the lead recruiter or in charge of recruiting pretty much since he’s been here. As most have said Joker is in over his head, and people that keep making excuses for him don’t have a clue. Some were on here yesterday comparing the Ohio loss under Brooks to this loss. Brooks was dealing with probation and scholarship reductions, so there really is no comparison.



  22. Mattd
    1:47 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    @17 Overall talent still goes to UK. Granted WKU has a terrific player in Dowling (kicked from UF a few years ago), but 1 player does not a team make. Moreover, recruiting is part of being a successful coach. If a sunbelt school can get a top talent safety and can also get a 4 star QB, then shouldn’t UK be able to get even better players. Clearly WKU has D1 athletes, but lets get serious, UK losing to WKU at home is un-freaking-believable.



  23. ATB (Always True Blue)
    1:52 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    I think the point is well taken and spot on. What I saw was a team that gave up four scores on four TO’s and a coach that went for the win and one that didn’t. Kentucky wasn’t dominated in this game for certain. However, they should have dominated. Bottom line there is no excuse for an SEC team losing to WKU, no excuse at all. There is barely an excuse for us to lose to UofL.



  24. playersfan
    1:53 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    No. 17, how did Western then get this great talent, when UK didn’t. Because they have a better, interactive, personable coach, that encourages and coaches, instead of pacing the sidelines shaking his head and wondering what is happening. Joker has had 3 years to bring in experienced good talent, its always on the way, but never arrives.



  25. KnowYourHistory
    1:58 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Were the “younger players” Joker refers to recruited by Tee Martin? If that is so, should we expect a drop off in talent in the future seasons now that Tee is at USC? It seems like the older guys who are not good enough to play were recruited by Joker, and Tee’s guys are playing.



  26. ShelbyCatFan
    2:09 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    #6 apparently you dont know anything about the sport either! Other teams in the SEC could have sat all their juniors and seniors, and still smack western in the mouth and beat them by 30. The difference our young talent is not COACHED up.
    That’s no one’s fault but Joker Phillips himself!!



  27. WKUisontherise
    2:30 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Attened the Navy at WKU game last year and I can tell you WKU is a program on the rise. No excuses and they are pumping it up all around the campus. UK’s problem is simply schemes! They are never going to be able to line up and play big boy football (neither is Vandy) in the SEC. They need the Leach Spread or the Navy Flexbone offense (it is not just a rushing offense) in order to have any success. Brooks had one great team and what did they do? 7 and 5 with a bowl win.



  28. DerbyDemon
    2:41 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    #7–Uh, no.



  29. Dark Helmet
    2:44 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    17) and 24) Thanks that’s my point exactly if WKU and UL can get top notch talent at a few positions UK shoud be getting even better talent. This is one of the only things I disagree with Matt over I don’t think UK has done anything in recruiting since they got lucky with Randall Cobb. However I think they can get it done in recruiting with the right situation – Matt seems to not thinks so. WKU’s players are hungry and mean but they have legit talent too.



  30. Dude
    2:52 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Look back when we had Locke and Cobb. Cobb would run all over the field on almost any team. What happened in all of the close games that we lost (Tennessee and South Carolina come to mind)? Cobb stops touching the ball, Kentucky loses. It’s obvious to me that coaching is the problem, not so much quality of players.



  31. Dude
    2:54 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Not to mention play calling was horrible the last couple of years. It’s looked a little better this year but now our defense takes fifteen steps backwards.



  32. Jonathan
    3:01 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    This was lazy research. DeQuinn Evans and Chris Matthews were 2 of the 4 stars in 2009 right? They were jucos and played just 2 years. 2009 and 2010. Morgan Newton was one of the 4 stars. He’s a backup now. Ryan Mossakowski was a 4 star. He’s gone. And this doesn’t include the transfers WKU has gotten, in particular, Jonathan Dowling from Florida. You know, the guy who intercepted all those passes. Pretty sure he was at least a 4 star recruit if not 5 star being Florida got him. Experience does matter, but it’s no excuse in this situation. If we don’t throw 3 picks in the 1st half we win. Despite the experience factor and the fact wku is much more talented than people realize.



  33. Jus Sayin
    3:22 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    SOunds like we need to trade coaches with western. We could do better than Taggart but I def whish we had him over Joker



  34. UKSCOTTY
    3:24 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    CHRIS HATCHER FOR THE NEXT COACH AT KENTUCKY!



  35. Sorry Joker
    4:51 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    #21 Is spot on. I’m sorry people most all UK fans liked Joker and wanted him to do well. It’s just not happening and there really are no excuses to be made. Anyone trying to make excuses for joker just isn’t to in tune with the whole situation.



  36. WideTackle5.9
    5:28 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Would be curious to know how many of UK and WKU’s players in each of these years came from Florida.



  37. WideTackle5.9
    5:56 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    If you want something done…. I did count based on scout.com info. Commits from Florida 2009-2012 UK=7; WKU=31; oh yeah UL=31. Not the whole story I know, I’m just sayin’.



  38. BigBlueFever
    6:55 pm September 19, 2012 Permalink

    Joker couldn’t coach his way out of a wet paper bag…..