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Phillips asks why not UK in SEC title race

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4696260.jpegAs the Kentucky football team closed the book on the 2011 spring season, it heads into a very cloudy offseason that holds more questions than answers.

The expectations from the fans is noticeably low after losing several key parts from a 6-7 team. Fans are worried that the program is on the verge of taking a step back.

Amid the questions and uncertainty, Phillips remains steadfast in his belief in this year's team.

"We don't worry about the outside," Phillips said. "The only thing I worry about is the guys, when we lock arms. And I heard this from Coach (Greg) Nord from when I was a player: 'Hey, let's lock arms and get to work.' That's the only guys that I worry about."

He believes Kentucky can not only continue to do what it has done the past five years, it can improve as well.

"I expect us to be in the title race longer than we've been," Phillips said Saturday when asked what the expectations are for the 2011 season. "We've got to talk titles. I don't want to talk about going to a sixth straight bowl game. I want to talk about how long can we stay in the title race. Our guys have got to believe that."

To some, when you look at the daunting task of replacing players like Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke and Mike Hartline, that line of thinking seems delusional.

But Phillips maintains that he's not drinking the Kool-Aid. He truly believes UK can compete in the Southeastern Conference this season.

"Why not?" Phillips said. "Somebody asked me on the show the other night who I would predict to win the East. Why not us? I truly believe it. Why not us? I truly believe it. I may get blasted for saying it today, but why not us? Our players have to believe. I believe it. I believe we can stay in this title race longer than we've ever been."

Entering his second season, what makes Phillips think Kentucky can get off the doorstep and enter the race?

"How close we've been," Phillips said. "How close have we been around here? We need a couple of those balls to bounce our way. We need a couple of more plays by some of our guys. We've been very, very close to being in this title race a little bit longer."

To stay longer, Phillips said this year's team needs to do three things that last year's team didn't always succeed with.

"The thing that we have to be is consistent in our play, we have to be fundamentally sound and we've got to be one of the toughest teams we've ever put on the football field," Phillips said.

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