Football Notebook: Phillips not nervous


Joker Phillips is named head coach of the UK football team at Commonwealth Stadium on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

With less than a week before UK faces its biggest rival, first-year UK head coach Joker Phillips is feeling rather calm and collected.

“Maybe Saturday morning I’ll be hugging a toilet somewhere,” Phillips joked. “I don’t know. I haven’t done that in a long time, since I was a player at one time. But I don’t know. It’s one of those deals where I’ve been as relaxed as I’ve ever been, but Saturday, who knows?”

The 23rd edition of the Governor’s Cup has even higher stakes than usual, as Phillips and first-year Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, friends with more than 40 years of combined experience as assistant coaches, are looking to start their careers at their respective schools on a winning note.

UK will also be the first opponent to see the newly renovated Papa John’s Stadium, which now seats 55,000 and is sold out for Saturday’s game.

Getting off to a quick start will be key to negating Louisville’s homefield advantage, Phillips said.

Partisan crowd aside, Phillips said the many new additions to the Cardinals’ coaching staff have made preparing for the season opener a little tricky, especially preparing for Louisville’s spread offense.

Defending the spread offense is something UK’s defensive players have encountered in the past, as UK’s Southeastern Conference rivals Florida and Vanderbilt employ a similar offensive philosophy.

“(The spread offense) is so much stuff flying back and forth everywhere, you’ve got to read the pull-and-go, you’ve got to read the option.” senior defensive end DeQuin Evans said. “If you make one mistake they’ve got a play.”

Phillips said he and his staff have a better idea of what Strong, who most recently enjoyed a seven-year tenure as defensive coordinator at Florida, will have in store for senior quarterback Mike Hartline and Co.

“Charlie is going to be aggressive … it’s going to be a blitzo-rama,” Phillips said. “He’s going to attack.  He’ll blitz on first down, second down, third down.  He’ll be blitzing as soon as he comes out of the locker room.  That’s just what they do.”

Depth Chart Notes

A couple of position battles were resolved at Monday’s news conference. One of the more surprising sights on the depth chart was that junior walk-on Luke McDermott, a defensive tackle and Trinity High School alumnus, will start alongside senior Ricky Lumpkin.

“(McDermott’s) a guy that always gives you 110 percent,” Phillips said.  “We told him to eat.  He needed to get bigger and stronger.  We said, ‘Go to the dining hall, eat.  As soon as you get full, eat some more.’  He’s over at the dining hall for an hour and a half, two hours sometimes.  We’ll leave breakfast and go back at lunch, he’s still there … the guy just continues to do everything he needs to do to get himself ready to play at this level.”

Sophomore Matt Smith beat junior Jake Lanefski for the starting center job, Ronnie Sneed edged Qua Huzzie at middle linebacker, junior Ryan Tydlacka will handle the punting and field goal/PAT duties, and redshirt freshman Jordan Aumiller emerged as the starting tight end.