Phillips will head to Southeastern Conference Media Days next week and follow that up the next week with an appearance at the Kickoff Luncheon on July 29.
On Thursday, Phillips talked at the Rotary Club Luncheon. Here are some notes and quotes from Phillips with the media before the luncheon:
- Like any coach would be at this time of the year, Phillips is anxious to get the season underway, but there's more excitement this season than there has been in the past because of some of the summer reports Phillips has received. "There is a lot of buzz going around our facility right now with our strength and conditioning coaches, (and) our current players talking about the players that walked in," Phillips said. "That's getting me excited about the season." Phillips said that while the program hit a bit of a plateau last year by going 6-7, it's a team on the rise this year because of the attitude of the players coming back.
- As some of you may have watched in the video interviews on Wednesday with the players, there is a lot of excitement about the new "Thursday Night Lights" workouts strength and conditioning coaches Rock Oliver and Ted Lambrinides have instituted. The idea started the week of July 4 just to give the players a longer break, but the guys fell in love with it. "It wasn't like; they loved it," Phillips said. "They felt that they were a lot more alert and felt together. They have recommended to Rock and his staff and they have taken their recommendation to heed and now are starting to implement that into our program as being a "Thursday Night Lights" deal. I think you always have to listen to your players and Rock and Teddy are doing that, therefore we'll move to a Thursday night workout."
- There's been a lot of talk recently about the team chemistry being stronger this year. While he didn't see anything wrong with the chemistry last year, it was the team's first year learning how Phillips and his coaching staff operates. This year, there's a better understanding of what to expect. "That's one of the things we've tried to stress as much as we possibly can is that the teams that get the best players don't always win championships," Phillips said. "Therefore, all those ratings, the No. 1 ranked team would win every year. We wouldn't have to line up. The teams that are together, teams that are disciplined, teams that are tough, teams that are physical, that's what we've been trying to preach to our players. If we stay together, if we're physical, if we're a disciplined football team, we'll win games."
- Along those same lines, Phillips said there is definitely some truth to the notion that you don't know what it's like to be a head coach until you've actually done it. Phillips said there was certainly an adjustment from managing three coaches and 50 players as a coordinator to managing nine to 10 coaches, undergraduate assistants, support staff and twice as many players. "I'm a more experienced head coach after a year," Phillips said. "I've been through the wars and the battles. Truly, the thing I've learned through the years is how to say no to folks. I think that's helped me as a head coach, and a year into this business as a head coach, sending some of our assistants to sell our plans. I think our assistants understand our plan and I thought last year it was my job to get out there and sell our plan, not only to the media, not only to the fans, not only to our players, but also to our coaches. I think I'm much more experienced and comfortable with sending our coaches out there."
- One of the changes Phillips will make this year is summer camp. Last year, Phillips brought the first and third teamers into practice for one session and then followed with the second and fourth teamers for another session. That will be scrapped this year in favor of a full team practice that will run a little bit longer than the individual sessions. "We'll keep the freshmen for about 15 or 20 minutes while conditioning is going on with the veterans," Phillips said. "After the veterans have conditioned, we'll allow those guys to come over and help coach some of those young guys because there are so many of the young guys that we have to get ready. We'll change around some things that we feel like we've learned from practicing last year. There will be some things during the season that we'll change also that we feel will help better prepare this team. Every year there are different ways to prepare different teams."
- Asked what area of the team concerns him the most on paper, Phillips said the wide receiver position because of the lack of experience. UK loses its top two leading receivers in Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews. But Phillips does believe the position has a lot of potential and talent based on the young additions. "I'm really excited about what's walked through our door," Phillips said. "That's' the buzz around our office, our complex is about some of those young wide receivers. I say that to say this: Those young wide receivers are all truly wide receivers. They're not guys that we have to teach the position. We have to teach them plays." In the past, UK has taken players like Randall Cobb, a high school quarterback, and molded them into receivers.
- There's also inexperience at the running back position, but Phillips isn't all that concerned because of the number of veterans returning to one of the league's best offensive lines. "All our guys have to do is run to daylight," Phillips said. "I'm comfortable that we have enough quality backs that are upperclassmen. I'm also excited in the young freshman backs as well."
- As for the newcomers that Phillips has heard the most about, he mentioned wide receivers Daryl Collins and Demarco Robinson, running backs Marcus Caffey and Josh Clemons, and offensive lineman Darrian Miller.