Phillips ready for first spring practice


UK men’s football players get timed on the forty-yard-dash at the Nutter Field House on Wednesday, March 10, 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

On the eve of his first official practice as  head coach, Joker Phillips sounded more than ready to be back on the field rather than back on the road.

“The third phase (of Operation Win) is spring football, which excites me more than anybody because everything comes to a screeching halt as far as touring the country and talking to alums,” Phillips said.  “Now, it’s time for some football.”

And time for Phillips to be the man in charge for the first time in his career.  He’s gone through the recruiting and offseason process, and now it’s time to step onto the field.

“The thing a head coach has to do is, number one, make sure the offensive and defensive schemes are sound,” Phillips said.  “We have to make sure we’re fundamentally sound.  And the third thing is making sure we’re playing with effort.”

Phillips, although he was promoted from inside the program, has already left some military-like fingerprints of his own on the program by renaming the special teams unit.

“We are renaming it the special forces, to go along with our military approach,” Phillips said.  “Our punt team will be bombers.  We will rename our units with military terms.”

While that may seem like a simple cosmetic change, Phillips also has implemented a new approach on defense concerning third-down stops.  But he said it’s not only how to get those stops, it’s what happens once you get them.

“We’ve put a huge emphasis on how to run off the field,” Phillips said.  “We want to be excited when we do get a stop, be sprinting off the field.  The guys got excited about that because they can get off and drink Gatorade and watch the offense.”

And, of course, that brings up the question of who the defense gets to watch take the snaps while they are drinking the Gatorade.  The position battle at quarterback between Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski has become the burning question entering spring practices.  All three are getting equal amounts of repetitions, Phillips said, and the situation will play itself out.

“Offensively, the one thing we have to do is come out where we’re comfortable throwing the football,” Phillips said.  “That’s going to require finding out who our quarterback is.”

And what determines who ends up under center during the season?

“Who can get us in the end zone,” Phillips said.  “That’s what a quarterback is measured on.”