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Phillips holds court at SEC Media Days

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UK football head coach Joker Phillips spoke to hundreds of reporters at SEC Media Days on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. (photo by Padraic Major) UK football head coach Joker Phillips spoke to hundreds of reporters at SEC Media Days on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. (photo by Padraic Major)

Phillips says UK 'very, very close' to taking next step | Video interviews

Below is the complete transcript from Joker Phillips' Q and A with print reporters at Southeastern Conference Media Days in Birmingham, Ala.

We'll have a notebook from UK's session with the media later Thursday, but in the meantime, check out the excerpt below and head to the SEC Digital Network for the latest video and quotes.

COACH PHILLIPS: Good morning. How you doing?

I read online there were over a thousand media folks going to be here, a thousand of you being here today. A sure sign of how college football has grown nationally and how big it is in the SEC.

It's great to be here for a second season, being able to represent the University of Kentucky, my alma mater, and also the SEC. I'm privileged and proud to be able to do those things.
I want to thank you guys for what you guys do in covering our student-athletes and covering the SEC. Our student-athletes are the most important thing in this job.

Our theme this year is 'Rise.' Our marketing department came up with the theme rise. We have shown that we at Kentucky can compete in this league.

Our challenge to our players, our veteran players and our young players, our new players, is to try to fill the void of some of the departure players we just lost. We lost a lot of production out of this past class. We have challenged our present players, our new players, to make sure that they are filling that void.

In order for this program to continue to rise we have got to do the things that is necessary for it to rise. 'Rise' meaning not just going to bowl games, but being able to contend for championships in this league.

One of the questions that I had for this football team when we left here in January was, Are you ready to do the right things with the right attitude, with the right maturity, with the right focus every day? That's what it's going to take for us to continue to rise in this league, to continue to have success in this tough league. That's what we talked about the first meeting when we left here Birmingham with the BBVA Bowl in January.

All of our players have done a great job in accepting the challenges that we put in front of them. So we're proud of that.

We made some positive changes to our coaching staff, what we think are positive changes. We added Rick Minter as our co-defensive coordinator. He will actually run the defense. We have Steve Pardue, a long time Kentuckian and long time coach in the state of Georgia. He'll coach our running backs.

I think you'll see more results from the year and a half that our football team has been under Coach Rock Oliver, his strength and conditioning staff. Our players will look different. They're a lot bigger, stronger, faster, leaner. A lot of that has to do with coach rock Oliver in strength and conditioning.

You'll see some familiar faces, Danny Trevathan, Stuart Hines, Larry Warford, Morgan Newton. Those are familiar faces you'll see. But we are excited about some of the new faces.

We're impressed what we saw in the spring. Y'all still will see some new faces that just walked in the door from the buzz that we're getting from our strength and conditioning program and our present players. I think it's exciting when our players understand what it takes to win in this league and they start buzzing about some of the players who just walked in the door.

We are doing a lot of things to elevate this program to the next level. We've been 8-5. We dropped to 6-7 this past year. The thing we have to do, and I've told this football team, The teams that are successful in this league are the teams that have discipline, teams that are physical, teams that are tough, have toughness. Those are the things that we've got to strive to get back to.

With that, what do you guys want to talk about?

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Coach Phillips.

Q. Coach, could you talk about your decision to hire Rick Minter. You worked together at Cincinnati. What are you looking for him to do? How much did it help that he coached in a bowl game?

COACH PHILLIPS: First of all, I worked with Rick in '97, '98 at the University of Cincinnati on both sides of the ball. Worked on offense and defense one year. The guy has a wealth of knowledge. He's been a mentor to me for a long time.

The thing that we wanted to achieve on defense was be more attacking, be more aggressive. If you look across this league, what's winning is teams that are playing great defense. For us to take this thing to the next level, that's being in the race as long as we possibly can, we have to play great defense.

The style that we were looking for, I was just explaining, we want to create minus-yard plays, we want to create turnovers to have success in this league. I think it will be very beneficial for us as a football team, as a football program, that Rick Minter came in for the bowl prep and got those 15, 16 practices that we were able to have during the bowl prep. I really liked the fact we played late. We didn't play till January the 8th. That allowed us to get more practices in, get more comfortable with the schemes that Rick will implement.

Q. You obviously were the coach-in-waiting under Rich Brooks. Talk about that. Do you still go to him for advice? Is he still close to the program at UK?

COACH PHILLIPS: You know, I am close to Rich Brooks. Rich Brooks is another mentor of mine. I do talk to Rich. I don't talk to him as much as when I first took over, but we do communicate. Got a voicemail from him yesterday with all the things going on. Haven't had a chance to return it, but I will.

He is not around as much. He is going back and forth from Oregon, California, Kentucky. He usually comes to Kentucky during the meets. We do get to see him during the fall for some games, in the spring for some spring practices.

Definitely I think the head-coach-in-waiting, my situation was different than a lot of the ones that have been in this position of head-coach-in-waiting. The reason I say it's different, I was a part of building what we had at Kentucky. A lot of the other guys came in. I think it was a little different for those guys coming into a program and taking over. It was a little different for me.

I think it was a lot better for me with the staff because I had been a part of it. A lot of those guys understood how much Kentucky football meant to me. Had I came in from the outside, I'm not sure they would have understood that.

Q. Coach, when you look around this league, the running backs seem to be taking over the league now. The quarterbacks, a lot of uncertainty. I don't know if we're going back to the '80s, but it kind of looks like that. Secondly, how hard is it to get over that wall? You have gotten to the wall, a long fight to get to that wall, but to get over that wall and be a contender in the SEC East?

COACH PHILLIPS: I've been a part of this league since 1981, as a player and coach for 18, actually 19 years, one at South Carolina. The six years I was out of this league, I still paid attention to this league.

Running backs have been a huge part in this league since I walked on campus in 1981. I don't think anything's changed there. Kentucky did become more of a passing team back in the late '90s. But still people threw it to the running back and the running back made plays. It's still a running back league.

How tough is it for us to get over the wall? I mean, I think we're very, very close. We're very, very close. We've been competing in this league for the last six, seven years where we have been in a lot of games, lost a lot of close games. The thing that's going to get us over the hump is being the most disciplined team, being the most physical team, and also having mental toughness, the things we talked about earlier.

We've beaten some of the traditional powers in this league. The thing we have to do is beat them consistently. Three teams out there that had a long winning streak against us. We were able to knock one of those this past year. Our goal is to knock those teams off. The thing that's going to get us to that level, being physical, being disciplined, being mentally tough.

Q. You produced what most would consider an elite player in Randall Cobb. You've gone to bowl games. How much more receptive are prospects in recruiting now as opposed to three or four or five years ago?

COACH PHILLIPS: Every year we've had a marquee player in this league, the dynamic player since we've been here. We had Jared Lorenzen, we were out there selling. Rafael Little became the face of our program. Keenan Burton became the face of our program, Andre' Woodson. Then comes Randall Cobb. He was the face of our program.

We were able to attract in one of the kids that are here, Morgan Newton, by selling Andre' Woodson. We were able to go out and find five true wide receivers, which was a need of ours, by selling Randall Cobb. We were able to get Randall Cobb and those other receivers we got in his class three years ago, by selling Keenan Burton. By being able to sell the guys that we just talked about has given us a chance to get into some homes, because other players like other players. They like watching dynamic players.

Randall Cobb was one of those dynamic players. Wasn't offered by a lot of people. That's why I'm really excited about this recruiting class that we're putting together now.

We have 13 commitments. Of the 13 commitments, we have 10 of them that we had in our camp. Randall Cobb was one of those guys that we had in our camp that we were able to identify. We were able to sit down and talk and discuss football with Randall Cobb, to understand what this guy has what it takes to be a great player. This guy has the desire, determination and will to be a great player in this league.

I'm exciting about this recruiting class we put together because our coaching staff have been in front of those guys, have had a chance to work with those guys for a couple hours. It's an exciting time to be a Wildcat.

Q. Could you talk about the mental part of the coaching game, what it takes to get your program to the next level in that aspect.

COACH PHILLIPS: The mental part of the coaching game? We talk about 95% of the game is mental. 95% of the game is mental. Sometimes you have to play mind games. You have to put them in situations that might come up in a game.

A lot of those situations change. I mean, I watch games. People say, Why do you watch college football when that's what you do? I watch games so I might see a situation that we might not have practiced. It's hard to come up with all the situations that might come up. So you have to be mentally ready for those things when they come.

I like the fact we play a lot of night games. Jerry Claiborne used to do this with us when I played, Did you see what happened to Such-and-Such today? We got to be sound in the kicking game. Here is the reason why. Understand what happened to this team.

So I like watching games also throughout the day to try to put myself as a head coach into situations, Should I use a timeout here or wouldn't I? I think that's a huge part of being a college football coach.

UK football head coach Joker Phillips stressed the importance of taking the next step and competing for an SEC championship at SEC Media Days on Thursday. (photo by Padraic Major) UK football head coach Joker Phillips stressed the importance of taking the next step and competing for an SEC championship at SEC Media Days on Thursday. (photo by Padraic Major)

Q. Joker, Greg Schiano generated a lot of conversation this summer with a proposal that basically do away with kickoffs. Although that doesn't seem very likely to happen anytime soon, do you think something will be done to address player safety on kickoffs? What was your reaction to his proposal?

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, I understand the situation that Greg faced up at Rutgers. But I really like the fact that we move the kickoff so we'll have more kickoffs. I don't know if there's been as much as we thought there would be. I see a lot of kickoffs, guys getting a lot stronger kicking the ball in the end zone.

My reaction to it was I understand his situation, but I think I like the fact that we have the kicking game, we have punts, we have kickoff returns. I think it's given us a chance to get great field position with the guys we have.

If you look at the stats in the last few years, we've always had one of the top all-purpose guys in the SEC, the reason being is because of our ability to return kicks and punts.

Q. How do you think Steve Pardue is going to impact the program this year? What are your expectations for what he'll bring to the table?

COACH PHILLIPS: First of all, Steve Pardue is a Kentuckian. You look at our staff, there's five Kentuckians on our staff, three ex-lettermen at our place. Might not be important at some other places, but I think it's important for Kentucky football that there are guys that truly want to be there.

I mentioned it last year. It's juice, it's passion for the job that you have. I think Steve Pardue brings that to us at Kentucky. The impact that he'll have on us I think will be huge, especially in the state of Georgia and western Kentucky because Steve grew up in western Kentucky.

He's been in the state of Georgia for a long time, been on the Coaches Association Board.
We want to get more into south Georgia. We feel we've done a really good job in the Atlanta and central Georgia area. We want to get in the south Georgia area to see if we can attract more quality players, and Steve brings that to us.

Q. Coach, how important are recruiting services to your recruiting process? Is it a place where you get film or is it easier to get film from the high schools individually?

COACH PHILLIPS: It's very important, first of all, because it gives you a lead on kids in some areas, especially when you're in a state like ours that do not produce as many players as the other states in the Southeastern Conference. I think it's very important.

I don't think it's as important nowadays to get video and those things from them. I think getting the literature is plenty for us, gives us a starting point. But we also try to recruit the same areas year in and year out, which our coaches should know.

But being in Kentucky, we can't hit every school in Alabama. We can't hit every school in Georgia. We just don't have the manpower. We can't put seven out there at a time. So we don't have the manpower to be able to hit every school.

I think the recruiting services do help that. But it's not as important with video, especially nowadays with YouTube, the video links that kids can email you. But the literature is very good for us.

Q. Coach, I wanted to ask you about Rick Minter. Talk about flipping the dynamic from Cincinnati to Kentucky.

COACH PHILLIPS: That was one staff meeting that I asked Rick to do something. It was just say, Hey, can you do something, I want you to bring someone to my house for dinner. You work for me now. I had to let him now.

But our relationship's been great. In all the moves that I've made, whether it be from -- I definitely spoke to him when I left Cincinnati to go to Minnesota. When I left Minnesota to go to Notre Dame, the guy I talked to, one of the guys I talked to, was Rick Minter. When I left Notre Dame, which wasn't by choice, I had a couple other options, and Rick's advice was to go to South Carolina with Coach Coates, who he had worked for a couple times. When I had a chance to come back to Kentucky, Rick's advice was, Hey, you need to go, it's a great career move for you.

So I've always talked with Rick, major moves that I made. Sometimes we've talked about football. A lot of times it's about football and schemes that I might see on defense that he's familiar with. He gives me some insight in how to attack those.

Q. What are your thoughts on the proposed changes that the commissioner outlined yesterday?

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, talking about compensating players, it's great we have dialogue about paying players or compensating players. But there's a lot of factors involved. I understand that. Right now having this dialogue has now gotten us to the fact-finding phase of this thing. I think as we continue to find out the facts, come up with some answers that might fit.

Those factors, you have to understand, are not just about football, basketball, but it's about all the sports involved. It's not just about football. We got to come up with answers to those solutions also to be able to take care of everybody, not just men's basketball and football.

But I'm glad that we're having dialogue. In the end, the biggest thing is making sure that the persons that are getting taken care of that need to be taken care of, which are the players. That's what matters. Whatever we come up with, whatever solution, I'll be for it.

Q. Joker, what is your approach to monitoring comments from your players on social media? Have you made any changes or will any changes be made in light of the NCAA making direct allegations against the school because of not monitoring social media?

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, we have issues also. We tell our players that we only want you to put things on how you would interview if a camera is in front of you. Tell nothing about what's happening under this roof here.

But we do have some issues with it. We'll address those as they come up. We do have someone on staff that monitors those things, monitors everybody's Twitter and Facebook.
I don't know a lot about it. I can honestly tell you that. We do have Facebook. It's been a real means of how to get in touch and communicate with prospects. But that's as far as I go.

We do have Twitter. I do tweet, I guess it's called, some. But, again, we try to tell our players that when you are tweeting, you are interviewing, that's what we're doing. That interview never goes away. We've had a couple guys that said some things on the Twitter or tweet, and we say, Y'all say, "Dear General Manager." That's one of the catchy terms that we've been talking about. That's who you're sending it to. You're not just sending it to a friend or a fan, you're sending it to everybody across the country. Some general manager is going to get what you said.

I can guarantee you, Randall Cobb didn't say anything on his tweet that some general manager says, We don't need to take this guy.

We have to continue to monitor those things and continue to educate our players on what to put on there.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH PHILLIPS: Thank you very much.

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