Joker Phillips' Weekly Press Conference
Dec. 6, 2010
Following is a transcript of the media opportunity held Dec. 6, 2010 with UK football head coach Joker Phillips and players Stuart Hines and Ricky Lumpkin to discuss the season and the acceptance of a bowl invitation to the BBVA Compass Bowl to face Pittsburgh on Jan. 8, 2011.
Head Coach Joker Phillips
COACH PHILLIPS: I feel a little uncomfortable I don't have my blue on today. First the injury report, everybody -- I don't know if Ricky told you he had surgery last week, but he will be ready for the game. He had to clean up some loose stuff in his knee. He’ll be fine, though, probably at the time that we get to the Bowl he'll be ready to go at that time, which will give us about four days of work with him.
We're excited about this game. I mean, we get to benefit from some extra practices, and the date of the Bowl also is of benefit, gives us even more practices, and we've got a lot of young guys. You guys have been to the last couple practices, some of you that had a chance to get out, you guys know that we've got some really good, young players that really are benefiting from these extra practices, and we've used it in our player development and we will continue to do that in these upcoming practices.
We're excited because this is our fifth straight Bowl game. There's only 29 teams out there that can say that they've been to five straight Bowl games, and we're excited to be one of those teams. And there's 50 teams that are not in Bowl games, and there's two teams that were in BCS (last season) that aren't in a Bowl game this year, and like I say, we're excited to be one of those that are in one.
We're excited about Birmingham and being able to get down there and get in that community. It's a community that 26 years ago, that's where I played my last college game, so I'm excited about getting down there and being around the people of Birmingham, and the last time I was there, we painted it blue, too, so I'm excited about it.
And hopefully the people of Kentucky, the Wildcat nation will come out and support this football team. In the last five Bowl games we've played four National Championship teams, in my lifetime, Clemson, Florida State -- Clemson twice, Florida State and now Pitt. They've all won National Championships in my lifetime, so I'm excited.
Our players do remember Florida State. They don't remember the Clemson National Championship. I'm sure they don't remember the Pitt one because that was when my man (reporter Alan Cutler) was up in the area running around as a -- he wasn't a teenager yet, what, '76? And also excited about playing another Big East team. Not only are we playing a Big East team, we're playing a Big East team that tied for the championship. We've got an opportunity to play a champion of a conference.
They are a balanced team. They've got a really strong running game, two good running backs. Lewis ran for 260 yards (at Cincinnati) in the snow with a mascot throwing snowballs at him, so we're excited about having an opportunity to play him.
The quarterback, Tino Sunseri, he's a kid that was committed to Louisville. His dad is Sal Sunseri, who was the linebacker coach at Alabama. He's a guy that understands football. He's thrown for over 200 yards a game. So again, balanced team.
Defensively their head coach is a defensive guy, and they play great defense. They're in the top 20 in rush defense, pass defense and total defense. Got a defensive end also that's up for the Ted Hendricks Award. Huge challenge for us, but another opportunity we talk about every week. We had 12 guaranteed, we get an extra opportunity to play.
Q. How does their personnel compare to some of the SEC teams?
COACH PHILLIPS: You know, I haven't had a chance to watch much film yet. I got the announcement right after practice with some of you guys who were telling me who -- especially my man who was telling me here, (Brett) Dawson was telling me who we were playing, so he knew before me.
Then last night we were in some homes of recruits so we haven't had a chance to watch film yet. But I have seen them. They played some Friday games, I got to see them against Utah in a thriller in the first part of the season, got a chance to see them versus West Virginia. They've got some guys. They've got some guys that we play against every week, so it's a huge challenge for us.
Q. Does that help motivate your team when you're playing a quality opponent --
COACH PHILLIPS: Another opportunity should motivate our kids, regardless of who we're playing, but with a name like Pitt, a name team, I'm sure it will.
Q. How do you handle the approach to the game? Are you going to try to work in your young quarterbacks with Mike (Hartline) to get game experience or maybe some other positions, as well?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, we've got to try to go win the game. Another goal is for us to finish this thing with a winning season. The four straight before this we've also finished with a winning season. So it's important that we finish with a winning season. We'll give those guys some quality reps to get those guys ready to play, but we also know we've got to try to go out and win the game, and Mike gives us our best chance to win the game.
We'll approach this and work like a spring practice until about the last five to six practices, and then we'll continue to work on Pitt about 10, 15 minutes a day once we get heavy into them. But then about the last five, six days we'll go heavy into getting prepared for the Bowl game.
Q. With the way the Bowl game is falling so late, will the players be able to go home? How will that affect the schedule as far as Christmas and the holidays?
COACH PHILLIPS: We'll go until about the 22nd and then we will give them about five or six days off and then come back around the 28th, 29th, and go through the 2nd and break on the 2nd and have them meet us down at the Bowl site on the 3rd and practice on the 4th. And then treat -- once we get there, the 4th is on a Tuesday, treat that like it's a Tuesday practice, Wednesday practice, just treat it like it's a regular game for us.
Q. What do you remember about that last game you played there?
COACH PHILLIPS: We won. I mean, that's what you remember.
Q. How did you play?
COACH PHILLIPS: How did I play? Look it up. (Laughter.) We won.
Q. Six catches, 55 yards.
COACH PHILLIPS: There you go. Did I complete a pass? If I did, don’t tell Derrick Locke, though.
I mean, I can remember we played a team that was heavily favored, had three first-round draft picks, we had 11 draft picks overall, had beaten Michigan that year. I mean, those are the things that I remember. And I remember that we won. I mean, I do. That's the biggest thing.
Q. You've had some guys for various reasons decide to leave the program or go somewhere else. Is that just something that happens when there's -- even though there was continuity with this staff --
COACH PHILLIPS: Competition. We're developing -- well, you have to compete every day, and we've gotten better players here, so -- and then some of them have happened that guys are far away from home, they want to get close to home, too. That's the nature of the business.
Q. In some respects people who wonder, okay, what's going on if guys are leaving, but you're saying it's a good thing because there's more competition?
COACH PHILLIPS: There's more competition here. You guys saw the practices. There's some competition, especially in this young group.
I can remember at Miami, Portis and McGahee leaving early, McGahee left after a knee injury, right? The only reason why he left, Frank Gore. Both those guys left because of Frank Gore. And I think that's a pretty good reason to leave, because he's lighting it up in the NFL, too.
Q. When you recruit different guys at one position and they're all talented, when you recruit them, in the back of your mind do you say, well, we might not be able to hold onto all those guys if everything works out?
COACH PHILLIPS: You always do. You always go down to the wire thinking it's going to be tough to hold onto guys. But we try to recruit need areas, okay, therefore a guy knows that we need him for that position. For instance, a couple years ago we recruited five receivers. Our sales pitch is we should recruit five receivers because we need receivers. We recruit one receiver, we don't need that many receivers. That would scare me more than if we were recruiting a lot of receivers or if they were recruiting a lot of one position.
Q. I talked to Jacob Tamme recently, and he was saying that --
COACH PHILLIPS: He answered your call? He don't even answer my call.
Q. He was saying he felt like he's had success, Stevie has obviously been in the news. He hoped that was helping you guys, just maybe in --
COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely, definitely. Stevie is bringing a little bit more attention than I would like. (Laughter.)
But it's definitely helping us. I saw him on a talk show the other day. I don't agree with all the tattoos and the new hairdo, but it's definitely bringing some attention to our program.
Q. How much does the style of offense that you run, I mean, you've stuck pretty close to a pro style in a lot of ways. I know they talked about Stevie when he got there he was the most prepared because he had been in that offense --
COACH PHILLIPS: We can't coach, though, remember? We can't coach. (Laughter.)
Q. Is that a sales pitch, as well?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, (look at) Jacob Tamme (with Indianapolis coach) Tony Dungy, our offense was similar to theirs when he instituted it; therefore they wanted to take a guy that was familiar with the way they ran their offense. We are getting guys prepared for the next level.
Q. Now when you have some downtime or do you wait until after the Bowl game --
COACH PHILLIPS: Downtime? What is that?
Q. Do you evaluate staff and whether you're going to make any changes?
COACH PHILLIPS: Every day you've got to be able to -- you have to evaluate every part of your program, and the staff is a part of that.
Q. Do you anticipate changes?
COACH PHILLIPS: Every day. Every day we've got to try to evaluate the program, and staff is a part of that, recruiting is a part of it, the training room is a part of it, our training table, everything is a part of it. We've got to try to evaluate it.
Q. How much have you learned? How much have you learned just about things -- you go in with a game plan and learn on the job. How much have you learned just in this first --
COACH PHILLIPS: Oh, unbelievable. There's a lot of stuff that -- every day -- I talked to (Coach Kevin) Sumlin, who was at Houston when we first took the job, sat down with him, went into his office, and we were talking, and he said, there's nothing really to prepare you because there's so many little things that come up that you can't prepare for. That's why I was telling you guys a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago, that I try to watch games and try to put myself in that situation. I try to read and find out how coaches are handling different situations, also, because there's no way to put yourself -- to be prepared for all the things that happen in this position.
Q. From being the assistant to the head coach when you have a guy who wants to transfer or a guy who's thinking about it, what's the difference in your role there?
COACH PHILLIPS: You have to internal -- the sales pitch again. As an assistant you try to do a different sales pitch than the dang head coach. Everybody that's considering leaving, we want them to stay. We want kids to stay because we -- not only are they good kids, we think they have a chance to be good football players here.
Q. How will that play out with the kids who are looking at the NFL? Is that a different kind of sales pitch, or do you try that at all?
COACH PHILLIPS: You try to stay out of it as much as you possibly can because you don't want to be the reason why. Either way, I don't want to be -- only reason I came back is because you guys told me if something happens or the only reason -- you try to just give those guys as much information so they can make an educated decision about it.
Q. Do you ever give them your opinion?
COACH PHILLIPS: Although I usually throw a little subliminal advertising in there, too. (Laughter.) Maybe write on Randall's paper or something, his test, "stay." (Laughter.)
Q. Talk about the -- just getting back to learning on the job, the tough decisions that you have to make, suspending a kid, or maybe if you have to make staff changes, is that one of the hardest --
COACH PHILLIPS: I said at the SEC media day that the biggest difference is making those hard-core decisions. People have opinions and ideas and sometimes one gets used, sometimes one gets shot down, and now I've got to make those hard-core decisions and be held accountable for them. It's a lot different than being in the other chair.
Q. What do you think it'll mean -- you don't have a whole lot of fifth-year guys, but this is their fifth straight Bowl --
COACH PHILLIPS: Everybody in the program has been to a Bowl game (every year they’ve been here), exactly.
Q. What do you think it'll mean to those guys if they go out on a win?
COACH PHILLIPS: I was reading about Derrick Locke, and he's not a fifth year senior, and he came in here when we had already been to a Bowl game, but I think it'll mean the world to guys like Ricky Lumpkin and Mike Hartline, who came here only on our vision. We were selling them a vision and a dream that we had, and I think it'll mean the world to them. It will mean that they are able to go out on top because they hung in there with us and believed it.
Q. Do you think people take Bowl games for granted? I remember back when I was here, I think they went to one Bowl the whole --
COACH PHILLIPS: How many have we been to total?
COACH PHILLIPS: 15? Okay. I've been to eight of them. I've been to eight of them, and as a player -- I went in '83. I don't think we had been to one since '76, and it was big. It was big. And beating East Carolina, 6 to 3 maybe, that was huge for our program. And then the following year we followed it up with 9 and 3, 8 and 3, and then went into the Bowl game with a 9 and 3. Yes, 9 and 3. Look it up. (Laughter.)
Q. That East Carolina game was in '93.
COACH PHILLIPS: I didn't say '93? It was East Carolina we beat 6 to 3 in '83 to get to the Bowl game.
Q. That was in '93.
COACH PHILLIPS: Oh, I was coaching, you're right. We were 9 and 3, though, in '84. You know, it kind of runs together, too. Sometimes I see a kid and I think, did I coach him or did I play with him? (Laughter.)
Hey, you're right again. I hate that. (Laughter.)
Q. Since you're developing the program every day, how do you evaluate yourself the first year, the job you did?
COACH PHILLIPS: Learned a lot, I mentioned that. Did learn a lot. I really like some of the things we're doing off the field. We've got to win more games on the field, period, for you to have -- you grade on the total job? Always look at record. What are we, .500? That's the kind of grade you get. But then you evaluate the off-the-field issues with our academics, our community service, and that's what I put all together to come up with a grade. And I'm not going to give myself a grade, but that's how I do it. And I think we're doing the right things, I really do, because of all the three phases that we talk about.
Q. Will Billy Joe (Murphy) step in for Chandler (Burden)?
COACH PHILLIPS: Billy Joe has gotten a lot of reps at that position, both inside and outside. We will use Marcus Davis to be our swing guy. Now, if something happens inside, he'll go inside. If something happens outside, we will use (Dave) Ulinski.
Q. Some coaches will talk about the first year as a foundation year. With what you said about all the different phases, what kind of foundation do you think --
COACH PHILLIPS: I think we've got a solid foundation in all three. We don't want to be just going to Bowl games. We want to fight for titles, we do. The sixth straight Bowl game I want to be fighting for a title where that's not an issue. We're not talking about the sixth straight Bowl game, we're talking about a title. South Carolina, what Bowl game did they play in last year?
Q. This one.
COACH PHILLIPS: Okay.
Q. How about Connecticut?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yes. What game did Connecticut play in? Yep.
Q. How tough was it to see the SEC Championship game, a team you beat and a team you lost to on the last play?
COACH PHILLIPS: It was tough. Even the one we won could have went either way, the one we lost could have went either way. But I was just happy to be watching the game and getting texts from some of our players, and our players were saying, we want to be in this game. I think that's exciting when your players are talking like that.
#70 Stuart Hines, Jr., OG
On the time off between games…
“It’s nice. We get a little bit of time off and some time to get some younger guys some reps for next year. That is one of the advantages of going to a bowl game. You get all of the extra practices to get ready for the bowl game, and the next season as well.”
On the initial reaction of playing Pittsburgh…
“I’m excited about it. I don’t think Kentucky has ever played Pitt, so it should be a good experience. Pitt has a great defense and it will be a challenge for us on offense. They have a good running back, and it should be a good game.”
On the opportunity to finish the season above .500…
“That is very important to us. We don’t want to finish the season with a losing record. We had a few games this year where we could have won at the end. We want to come away with a winning record.”
On his prediction for the BCS National Championship Game…
“I’m going to have to go with the SEC, so I’m going to stick with Auburn to win it.”
On the team’s mindset heading into the bowl…
“I think we can get back up. The Tennessee loss was very disappointing, but you know we have a lot of determination to come out and finish the season strong and go out with a win and get a bowl win.”
#53 Ricky Lumpkin, Sr., DT
On the practices benefiting the younger players…
“Those practices definitely benefit the younger guys. We just need to step it up so the spring will be a strong finish for them.”
On if there is added pressure to represent the SEC…
“Yeah, there is some added pressure. If you look at it, South Carolina lost to UConn in this bowl game (last year). It’s all about who is ready to play that game on that date. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a Monday, Tuesday, or whatever.”
On pushing the younger players…
“I’m really proud of the young guys. They have been through a lot. You don’t want to be the team that takes this program down and not go to a bowl game. At the end of the day; we are going to a bowl game. So look, I’d rather be winning than losing. I’m proud of the young guys, though.”
On the date of the game…
“This will be the first time since I have been here that I will actually get to spend time with my family on Christmas. You know, that’s a great positive. I will actually get to go home, spend time with my family, and maybe spend New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with them. That for me is rare because we have played the day before or even practiced on Christmas. Nobody really knew it was Christmas. The best thing about the date of the bowl game is the exposure we will get. We are the second-to-last football game of the year. People are going to watch it. We have to show up and take advantage of this opportunity.”