UK football coach Joker Phillips didn’t mince words on Friday at the annual Kickoff Luncheon in Lexington. Like he did a couple of weeks ago, during an appearance at the Lexington Rotary Club, Phillips made an impassioned plea to Wildcat fans not to give up on his team before the season starts.
“These players don’t need everybody to believe in them. But they damn sure need somebody to,” he said.
Phillips punctuated his remarks with what has become one of UK’s “catch phrases” this season.
“I expect you, the Big Blue Nation, to get behind this football team. Why? Because we are UK.”
Earlier, UK offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders had the UK fans laughing, with a plea of his own. The former Tennessee quarterback begins his seventh season in Lexington and obviously has heard the fans’ rumblings for better results after last year’s 5-7 season.
“It’s a pleasure being here," he said. "I hope I’m back with you next year. I’ve got a daughter starting school and I need that 50 percent off tuition break."
UK season ticket sales are down, which has prompted a section of UK fans to wonder if the Wildcats don’t have a winning season, could this be the final year for Phillips. UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said he will do what he does every year: evaluate his coach after the season.
The Wildcats will be inexperienced on both offense and defense. Sanders said some of the best seasons have come with low expectations.
“Last year left a bad taste in my mouth, for about six months, offensively.”
“We’re still young,” Sanders added. “We’ll dress out about 25 players on offense. We’ve got about 20 that are old enough to dress themselves.”
UK’s defensive coordinator echoed the possibility of having a better season, despite being picked to finish last in the SEC East.
“Two or three of the better defenses I’ve been associated with for a long period of time really did come when the expectations were perhaps the lowest,” Rick Minter said.