By - Ira D. Combs
Director / Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media & Promotions Service Inc.
No matter which direction you look or what media outlet , internet site , twitter account or face book page you follow Joker Phillips and his 2012 Wildcat football team is supposedly going to have the fight of their life this fall to just keep their heads above water and regain some type of momentum the program supposedly had two years ago when Phillips took the reins from Rich Brooks .
Interestingly it's pretty much the same scenario Rich Brooks was in when he entered his 3rd year and we all know how that played out .
The only possible difference and I emphasis possible is as I look around I don't see evidence of any young and budding playmakers like Andre Woodson , Rafael Lyttle , Keenan Burton , or Stevie Johnson on offense or Wesley Woodyard , Myron Pryor , Corey Peters , or Jeremy Jarmon on defense .
Doesn't mean their isn't any on the roster . It may be a simple matter of they haven't had enough time with practice reps or game experience for their bodies to grow into SEC proportions or for their talents to emerge on game day . When fall camp breaks in late August a week before the Louisville game the UK depth chart will more than likely have three true sophomore's , two redshirt freshman , and two true freshman on the two deep chart at the all important playmaking positions of QB , RB , both WR positions and the slot back position .
If young raw athleticism and tender talent trumps slow and seasoned players then Raymond Sanders and LeRod King may be the only players offensively from the Jr. and Sr. class that gets any quality game time on saturdays . That's probably good news for the long haul but not necessarily for Joker Phillips scenario of job security .
However , according to one SEC football scribe ( Ryan McGee ) and ( ESPNU recruiting guru Tom Lemming ) the nest is not empty of talent over at the Nutter Center it's just terribly green in game experience .
On the bright side if Phillips rights the ship this fall he has a realistic shot to build some new momentum just like Rich Brooks did after he weathered his storm .
Maxwell Smith returns for his sophomore year after raising a few eyebrows as a true freshman down the home stretch last year before he got hurt in the Georgia game and the state has also produced UK with another prime time QB from that football factory up in northern ky. at Highlands by the name of Patrick Towles who is one of those rare but consensus four star recruits . Also , Demoreo Robinson and Darryl Collins a true sophomore and red shirt freshman return to give some athleticism and quickness to the WR corps . Throw in the mix last years freshman phenom at running back Josh Clemons who if healthy when fall camp rolls around should return to first string status and upgrade the running game tremendously .
However Joker Phillips scenario plays out to me is of a moot point because in the famous words of Bill Parcells in relation to UK football " we are what we are when it comes to UK football " it has been , is presently , and will always be what I call a developmental type college football program . UK simply can only recruit ( because of budget , image , and recruiting base issues ) the proverbial 3 star recruit and spend two years on him in the weight room and the practice fields developing his physical skill level in order to get three productive years out of him on game day . Even at that they can't miss on very many kids in the evaluation process especially at the all important offensive play making positions , which incidentally is what got Phillips and the program in this two year rut they're trying to fight thru .
If you will look back thru the history of UK football post "Bear" Bryant you will see that the few fleeting years of success has come when the Commonwealth has produced them with their own playmakers except for the cheating years of the Fran Curci era .
Jerry Claiborne's two bowl teams were lead by Owensboro's Mark Higgs and Bryan Station's Mark Logan . Hal Mumme's sweet but short stint of stardom was entirely due to Tim Couch and Guy Morris lone 7 - 5 year under probation was due to the hefty lefty from northern ky. Jared Lorensen . Rich Books glory days was due to North Hardin QB Andre Woodson along with solid support from Lou. Manuel's Keenan Burton and a defensive contribution as well from Lou. Central's Cory Peters and Lou. Eastern's Myron Pryor .
We'll see in a few months how this coming season's Wildcat fortunes play out as well as Joker Phillips coaching tenure but my money says the next era of Wildcat gridiron success will be directly due to a home grown playmaker and for Joker's sake I hope it's Patrick Towles .
Other UK Football Notes Of Interest
# 1 - That buzz you heard about bowl eligibility going to a minimum of 7 wins isn't true , at least not for 2012 and maybe even a couple more years . First it must be introduced as NCAA legislation and that can't even be done until the summer of 2013 and usually if a referendum is passed it takes one if not two years to be implemented .
# 2 - UK's 2013 non conference football schedule is Home games with Miami of Ohio & Louisville plus the final year of the WKU contract in Nashville and one game undecided .
# 3 - The 6 - 1 - 1 format was approved during last week's spring meeting in Destin , Florida for future SEC conference games with Mississippi State remaining as UK's permanent opponent and all conference games will still be used in the final standings to establish the conference divisional winners for the SEC championship game .
College Football Coaching Carousel Starts A New In Just Three Months
We're all aware having been involved with SEC football for many years that those coveted and lucrative college football head coaching positions are scrutinized to the max and once again we have several new faces on the Division 1 - A level with a few who have changed schools and a couple who come out of hiatus from their last firing to resurface at another school .
Listed below is an update on the new coaching hires and the ones who left for greener pastures as well as those who got the proverbial pink slip at years end back in December . There were actually 27 football coaching changes that have taken place since the end of the 2011 season but due to space I've picked out what I thought was the top 15 with name recognition either from the coach that was fired or the coach that was hired and listed them alphabetically by the school :
School / Team Old Coach New 2012 Coach
Akron Rob Ianello Terry Bowden
Arizona Mike Stoops Rich Rodriguez
Arkansas State Hugh Freeze Gus Malzan
Florida Atlantic Howard Schnellenberger Carl Pelini
Hawaii Greg McMackin Norm Chow
Houston Kevin Sumlin Tony Levine
Illinois Ron Zook Tim Beckman
Kansas Turner Gill Charlie Weiss
New Mexico Mike Locksey Bob Davie
Ohio State Luke Fickell Urban Meyer
Ole Miss Houston Nutt Hugh Freeze
Penn State Joe Paterno Bill O'Brien
Texas A & M Mike Sherman Kevin Sumlin
UCLA Rick Neuheisal Jim L. Mora
Washington State Paul Wulff Mike Leach
As we draw closer to the 2012 fall football season here is the short list of this years NCAA football coaches on the proverbial hot seat :
# 1 - Derek Dooley - Tennessee "Volunteers" - Was in over his head from the get go and Vince can't pull him out of this mess .
# 2 - John L. Smith - Arkansas "Razorbacks" - Maybe not the proverbial hot seat just the ultimate audition scenario win big or drift off into the sunset .
# 3 - Joker Phillips - Kentucky "Wildcats" - Portion of fan base says he's not the man for the job but A.D. is well noted for patience .
Coaches whose honeymoon period is definitely over or are coaching at traditional schools who expect the ultimate every year :
# 1 - Tommy Tuberville - Texas Tech "Red Raiders" - Coming off 5 - 7 year going into 3rd year and needs to go bowling somewhere this year .
# 2 - Mark Richt - Georgia "Bulldogs" - Is there ever a year that this fan base is satisfied with other than an SEC or BCS championship .
# 3 - Mack Brown - Texas "Long Horns" - Needs to earn a solid BCS bowl bid or his school is one that can afford to fire it's coach quick & surprisingly .
Former coaches out of work or up and coming young head and assistant coaches who will be hot candidates should Joker Phillips not survive 2012 :
# 1 - Bobby Petrino - Former U of L and Arkansas coach has a little baggage but so did John Calipari and that hasn't worked out all that bad .
# 2 - Brent Pease - Former Bosie State Off. coordinator was brought to The Swamp by Will Muschamp to bring back the Gators glory days of offense .
# 3 - James Franklin - 1st year Vandy coach went 6 - 6 and could have easily went 8 - 4 . His early recruiting is even more impressive .
Bat Cats Can't Overcome Their Own Mistakes Plus More NCAA Shakedowns
Gary Henderson and his over achieving UK baseball team finally run all the gas out of their tanks late sunday evening up in the Gary , Indiana NCAA 1st round regional baseball tournament losing to Kent State by one run for the second time in 48 hours and after a combined 30 innings of competition .
No UK baseball season has been more exciting nor has one ended in a more humble and disappointing manner but it did in the end possibly bring it's likeable radio announcer , Neil Price , to Tom Leach status across the Commonwealth to those who took the time to listen in . To say the least it was a hoot for yours truly to be forced to revert back to old time radio baseball .
They say baseball is a game of inches and sometimes all it takes is one inch to change the course of a game . Sunday night in the top of the 8th inning Kent State and UK was locked up in a scoreless tie when Kent State had two runners on base with two outs . According to UK radio announcer , Neil Price , a long drive to right field actually hit off the top of the fence and came back onto the field which would have been a double and only scored the two base runners but the first base umpire ( who twice earlier in the game had controversial calls go against UK ) thought differently and awarded the Kent State batter with a three run home run .
In the bottom of the 8th UK answered with two runs of their own .
Neither team plated a run in the ninth and Kent State walked off the field with another controversial one run win and this time advanced on to the NCAA Super Regional's .
On another related matter at the Gary , Indiana NCAA regional it appears common sense evidently is not listed anywhere in the NCAA manual or dictionary based on their actions after friday nights record setting 21 inning marathon between UK and Kent State in their first round encounter .
According to a Lexington TV station ( WLEX NBC Channel 18 ) who had people covering the UK - Kent State game on friday night the UK team had just played a few minutes short of eight hours of grueling , emotion filled , and highly competitive baseball and the team was walking away from the teams most devastating loss in school history literally helping one another to the team bus when our friends from the NCAA who were staffed to coordinate the event made the entire team stop and return for of all things an ( NCAA mandated drug test ) which held up the team another hour from getting back to their team headquarters by midnight and getting a decent meal and night's rest for the next days game .
UK could have easily showed up on saturday an hour or so ahead of time right before the team played in the losers bracket , what is the tangible difference , common sense once again escapes our friends from the NCAA .