Gainesville, Fl. (WKYT) - Joker Phillips, who has over 25 years of coaching experience, including 18 of them coaching wide receivers, has been named the new wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of Florida football team, head coach Will Muschamp announced on Monday. Phillips comes to UF after being the head coach at the University of Kentucky for the past three seasons and will begin on Friday.
A native Kentuckian and former Wildcat player, Phillips was only the fifth Kentucky alumnus to become head coach of the Wildcats. Phillips was UK’s first African-American head football coach and only the second in the history of the Southeastern Conference.
“We are excited to have Joker join our staff,” said Coach Muschamp. “His background as a head coach and the number of years he has coached wide receivers, will be a tremendous asset to our coaching staff and players. Joker is obviously very familiar with the Southeastern Conference and has always done a great job in recruiting. Obviously, I had a number of experiences with Joker both on and off the field, as our paths have crossed often, but I’ve been really impressed with Joker Phillips as a man during this hiring process.”
Phillips' energy led to some positive results in recruiting and on the field, where he became the first coach in Kentucky history to take a team to a bowl game in his first season. In addition, Phillips won more games than any first-year UK coach since Blanton Collier in 1954. His teams also broke long-time streaks with wins over South Carolina and Tennessee.
“I’m thrilled to become part of the Gator family,” said Phillips. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compete and win at the highest level. I believe in Coach Muschamp’s philosophy and what he has done in his short time here at Florida is phenomenal. I’m looking forward to contributing to the long-term vision that he has for this program. In addition, it will be very rewarding to be involved in the hands-on development of the players I will coach.”
Prior to being elevated to head coach, Phillips was on the staff of head coach Rich Brooks from 2003-09, including the last five seasons as offensive coordinator. Named offensive coordinator before the 2005 season, he made an immediate impact as Kentucky improved its scoring average and total offense in each of the first three years under his direction.
The yearly progression reached its zenith when Kentucky scored a school-record 475 points during its 13-game schedule in 2007, helping spark the Wildcats to a second-consecutive Music City Bowl championship. Total offense also was a highlight of the '07 season. UK's total offense of 5,764 yards was the second-highest total in school history. The average of 443.4 yards per game is fourth in UK annals.
Phillips was nationally acclaimed following Kentucky's 43-37 upset of No. 1 LSU. He was named National Coordinator of the Week by Rivals.com and the National Offensive Coordinator of the Week by the Master Coaches Survey.
Phillips' offensive style has shown flexibility and balance between the run and the pass. During his time as offensive coordinator, UK has had a 3,000-yard passer (André Woodson, who accomplished the feat twice), two 1,000-yard receivers (Keenan Burton and Steve Johnson) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Rafael Little, who reached the mark twice).
As wide receivers coach, Phillips mentored some of the best in Kentucky school history - Burton, Johnson, Dicky Lyons, Jr. and Derek Abney. With Burton, Johnson and Lyons leading the way, along with tight end Jacob Tamme and tailback Rafael Little, Kentucky was the only team in the nation in 2007 that had five players with at least 1,000 receiving yards during their careers.
In addition to his coaching, Phillips also is a highly effective recruiter, as his straightforward, likeable personality earns the trust of young players and their families. He served as UK's recruiting coordinator in 2003-04, giving up that post because of his additional offensive responsibilities, but continued to be deeply involved in recruiting.
Phillips' abilities in that area have become known across the country, as he has been identified as one of the nation's top recruiters by SportsIllustrated.com and Rivals.com.
Phillips has gained additional coaching experience by working postseason all-star games. He was the winning head coach in the 2005 Magnolia Classic. Following the 2006 season, he was an assistant on the winning squad in the IntaJuice North-South All-Star Game.
Phillips played at Kentucky from 1981-84 and was on the football staff from 1988-96. As a player, he helped lead the Wildcats to appearances in the Hall of Fame Bowl in his junior and senior seasons. He finished his playing days tied for fifth on the UK career receiving list with 75 catches for 935 yards and nine touchdowns. He went on to play a total of three professional seasons with the Washington Redskins of the National Football League (1985, '87) and Toronto in the Canadian Football League (1986).
Phillips began his coaching career at his alma mater as a graduate assistant in 1988-89. In 1990, he served as an assistant recruiting coordinator. He was a full-time assistant coach, in charge of the wide receivers, from 1991-96. In 1991, under Phillips' guidance, wide receiver Neal Clark broke the single-season record for pass receptions with 47 catches. Craig Yeast, who became the SEC's all-time leading receiver, played his first two seasons under Phillips in 1995-96.
Phillips returned to UK from South Carolina, where he coached the wide receivers under head coach Lou Holtz in 2002. Gamecock newcomer Troy Williamson earned SEC All-Freshman honors that year and went on to become the No. 7 pick in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Phillips also has coached at Cincinnati (1997-98), Minnesota (1999-2000) and Notre Dame (2001). At Minnesota, he guided All-Big Ten wide receiver Ron Johnson, who went on to play for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. In his year at Notre Dame, Phillips placed two wideouts in the NFL, Javin Hunter and David Givens.
As a coach, nine of his teams have gone to bowl games, including UK to the 1993 Peach Bowl, 2006, `07 and '09 Music City Bowls, the Liberty Bowl following the 2008 season and the BBVA Compass Bowl after the 2010 season; Cincinnati to the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl; and Minnesota to the 1999 Sun Bowl and 2000 MicronPC.com Bowl.