Last week Coach Joker Phillips announced former Marshall defensive backs coach Mike Cassity would join UK at the same position. Cassity replaces former defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator, Steve Brown, and takes over a Wildcat secondary that will look completely different next season. Both starting cornerbacks are graduating and three safeties are seniors too. Kentucky posted a 5-7 record, but the graduating members of the secondary provided stability in the back of the defense. They only gave up 22.7 points a game, 193.8 passing yards a game, and ranked 30th in the country as a pass defense. Cassity has his hands full as he takes over because he has to find a way to replace that production. As a UK grad and former assistant coach at UK, Cassity has an outstanding resume’ and definitely will be up to the challenge of coaching and reloading this secondary. Mike Cassity is the “who” now here is the what, when, where and why.
–WHAT: A new secondary. Cassity takes over a secondary that is returning two seniors and host of sophomores. They add a hard-hitting JUCO transfer in Kory Brown, who figures to challenge for a starting job. Joker’s recruiting class also has a bunch of Rivals.com three-stars DB recruits (Randall Cobb, Winston Guy, and Matt Roark were all three stars recruits) which bodes well for the future of the secondary. The challenge will be to immediately get the players settled in their new roles and continue to build on the success that was had last year. Free Safety Mikie Benton and Cornerback Cartier Rice will have the most experience of the defensive backs going into the season and the Cats will need a big year from both of them.
–WHEN: Right now. Coach Phillips had a lot of fans calling for his job before ending the 26-year drought against the Volunteers, and some still are. I personally thought it was unwarranted because I think Phillips is an outstanding coach who is still working with some of Rich Brooks’ players. Nothing against Coach Brooks or his recruits, but it takes time to completely have a college football program looking how you want. It takes time to implement your own players, staff, and philosophy and on top of that have success while doing it. Even if Joker didn’t beat Tennessee I thought he should be given more time. Phillips replaces Brown, a Brooks hire, with his own guy in Cassity. There aren’t any excuses for Joker now and he has to at least get to a bowl game to consider his job completely safe.
–WHERE: Back to Lexington. Cassity has an exceptional resume’ and it all begins with his years as assistant coach here at UK. He has 37 years of coaching experience and 22 of those years have been at defensive coordinator. Here’s the list of schools Cassity has coached at: Kentucky (1975-1981) Morehead State (1982), WKU (1983-88), Northeast Louisana (1989), East Carolina (1990-91), Georgia Tech (1992-1993), Cincinnati (1994), Wisconsin (1995-96), Baylor (1997-98), Oklahoma State (1999-2000), Illinois (2001-2003), Louisville (2004-07) and Marshall (2009-2011). During his career he has sent 34 players to the NFL and when he was with Louisville he had the defense in the top 40 nationally all three years. Cassity has even worked with current defensive coordinator Rick Minter on two previous occasions and should have no problem adjusting to the defensive philosophy. Having a number of coaches on one side of the ball who have had success calling defenses in the NCAA is definitely a plus.
–WHY: He’s a Kentucky native. Cassity was born in Fort Campbell, KY. He is a graduate of UK where he lettered in football and wrestling during his time here. He played on the same teams as Phillips, linebackers coach Chuck Smith, and special teams’ coordinator Greg Nord. Cassity is also a pretty good recruiter. He was named 2007 Big East recruiter of the year by SI.com during his Louisville tenure and chosen as one of the top-25 recruits by rivals.com in 2005.
The biggest reason Cassity was hired is because Coach Phillips is trying to get his own staff in place for a big push for a bowl game in the 2012 season. Phillips will go into the season with a warm seat and it could get hotter depending on his success, or lack thereof. The schedule does not do the Wildcats any favors. The first three SEC opponents all won their respective bowl games and having a lot of SEC teams on your schedule is never an easy task. Its bowl game or bust for the UK Football team, we will see if they are up to the challenge.
You can read the official statement of Cassity’s hire here.