The new head football coach at the University of Kentucky is excited about the opportunity to lead the Wildcats this season. His latest duty as the head coach was to meet with members of the media at SEC Media Days in Hoover on Wednesday.
“A lot has happened in the last six months,” Phillips said in his opening remarks. “It’s definitely been a whirlwind. But I’m truly living the dream. Not only am I a letterman, alumnus, a Kentuckian, for me to be able to lead the program I truly love, I’m living the dream, and carrying it out.”
Phillips said one of the biggest differences for him in being the head coach versus an assistant is that he’s now the one making the “hardcore decisions.” One of those hard decisions came in choosing a staff, but Phillips knew what he wanted when he started looking for assistants.
“What I was looking for in hiring a coach is, number one, can he recruit,” he said. “If you look at our staff now, we have seven coaches that have been ex-recruiting coordinators sometime in their career. The second thing I was looking for is, can he teach the fundamentals that we need to teach to win in this league. Can he teach our schemes that we have at Kentucky. The third thing is, can he connect with the players we have at Kentucky. …Does he have ‘juice,’ meaning energy; does he have enthusiasm; does he have the passion for the job we have here at Kentucky.”
After taking over at Kentucky, Phillips introduced what he refers to as “Operation Win.”
“It means we want to win in the classroom,” Phillips said. “Our GPA went up four-tenths of a point. We had 40 kids over 3.0; we had three that had over 4.0, so we’re winning in the classroom.
“The second thing that Operation Win means is we want to win in the community, by doing community service, getting into the group homes. We want to mold our young men into being productive citizens so someday they might have a positive contribution to society.
“The third thing is we want to win on the field. We make no bones about it. We want to win on the field, winning on the field by getting into the film room and understanding everything we can about our opponents, getting in the weight room and out-working our opponents, and then taking everything to the practice field and perfecting the skills that we have.”
Lincoln grad Jonathan George could see playing time this season according to Phillips. The redshirt freshman proved to be one to watch in the spring scrimmage when he rushed for 127 yards and had a 73-yard touchdown. Phillips said George is vying for the backup tailback spot and is likely to see playing time on special teams.
“We know that Derrick Locke is our starter, starting tailback,” Phillips said. “We expect Jonathan to compete for the backup position and also be able to come in and help us on special teams.
“Jonathan was a state champion in wrestling, state champion in the 400 meters. He’s blessed with a great body, which says he should be a good special teams player. That’s what we expect him to do this year here. If something happens, if he’s competing for the backup position, he will immediately be the starter.
“He’s got a bright future. No question about that. One of the strongest kids on our team. We’re excited to have him there.”
Kentucky starts fall practice on Aug. 6 and will face Louisville in the season opener on Sept. 4.
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