COACH PHILLIPS: This past season has been a really good season and I say "season" past year, because this thing started a year ago. We didn't just all of the sudden begin to recruit. Recruiting is year round these days, and this staff did an unbelievable job of recruiting. The (recruiting) staff is made up of the coaching staff, their families, their wives did an unbelievable job, our support staff, the people in this building, and across the campus.
That includes Mitch Barnhart, Dr. (Eli) Capilouto, and Coach "Cal" (John Calipari), who did an outstanding job of very few big time Division I coaches in men's basketball are willing to open up their locker room at the 30 minute mark and let some high school football recruits come in and address them, and I appreciate Coach Cal for doing that.
And Dr. Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart, when we got those guys in front of our prospects, they did an outstanding job of selling our vision and where we are as a football program, and it was a good chance for us to for the recruits to hear from our administration, the support that we have here at Kentucky. This is a strong recruiting class, and the class got stronger in the last 48 hours when a couple of kids decided to join us.
This is our second year in a row that we have had an opportunity to sign a full class. I say "full class" I mean a full class of 25. Because of the numbers and because of the quality that we have had in these last two classes, I think the core, the core and the strength of this program is in our younger players, these 59 players that have three years or more (of eligibility) in this program right now.
Last year we brought in 25, 11 of those got on the field, could have easily been 4 or 5 others that could have got on the field, the other guys probably needed a year of development but there were a couple of other guys that could have gotten on the field and we feel that this is that type of class and might even be better than the class we put together last year.
I also talked to you last year about we have come up with a profile of what the student athlete in football looks like here at Kentucky. Has to be high character, a guy that really wants to get a degree and a guy that wants to be successful and loves the game of football, not only loves the game of football but loves playing the game of football here at Kentucky, and this staff did a good job of evaluating early and I say "a year ago" because we started a year ago.
We started two or three weeks ago starting on the 2013 class. So it's about the same time that we started on the '12 class, so we did a good job of evaluating early guys that fit this profile and guys that fit our needs, also playing at a high level in this league that you have to have.
Because of that we were able to get kids to commit to us early and they might not have gotten all the attention from other scouts, other schools because of that. We were able to get 'em early enough because we identified them and because of the profile that we talk about, that our kids that we're looking for, okay, the commitment meant something to them and late in this process there was a lot of kids that were getting hammered by other teams, and Jordan Watson was one of the those guys getting killed by other teams, trying to get him to turn his back on the University of Kentucky, and Jordan stood strong. A couple of other kids, Dyshawn Mobley, another kid that stayed strong because of the profile that we were looking for, a guy that has high character, wants to get a degree and loves to play football and brings that love here to the University of Kentucky; we were able to hold on to what we called a great class that got even better in the last 48 hours.
A lot of that had to do with the relationships that we have established and that's the thing that this staff has talked about. We talk about family atmosphere and it truly is. If you look at the staff from to the to bottom, those are guys that I have had relationships with in the past, not only as they have coached me or I've coached with or seen coach or some of them were friends that we have met in this business, and that has nothing to do with and I heard a statement that "Coach Brooks' guys are out of here," it's not about Coach Brooks' guys, it's about Joker's guys, and everybody understands the type of relationship that Coach Brooks and I had here at Kentucky.
I would die on the sword for Coach Brooks, our relationship was strong, very strong. I want the guys that are willing to die on the sword for me in the back of the room, and we have 'em.
We were able to sign some top players here from Kentucky, the top player (Patrick Towles), and along with that three other players from Kentucky. The state of Ohio, who we have been talking about has to be important to us, we got two kids from the state of Ohio, and I appreciate the effort of Coach (Rick) Minter and Coach (Mike) Cassity, who has joined our staff, we were able to get two quality players in the state of Ohio and has to be a huge emphasis of ours to be able to go into the state of Ohio, which is – (there are) a lot of people between here and Dayton that love the game of football that fit the profile that we're looking for, and we have got to be in there, and not just be in there but be in there strong.
Eight kids from Georgia, we continue to go into that state and attract kids. I think because of the relationships that many of the guys on this staff, Coach (Greg) Nord has relationships with the coaches in Georgia, Coach (Tee) Martin, myself, Coach (David) Turner, offensively our staff has relationships with the high school coaches, with the addition of Coach (Steve) Pardue, he got us into south Georgia, which we hadn't been as strong in the in the last few years but bringing Coach Pardue on board strengthened those relationships.
Four from the state of Florida, and Coach (Mike) Summers has done an unbelievable job in the north Florida area. Usually you don't see an offensive line coach responsible for a huge area, he has one for us in Florida, and a lot of that is in the northern part of Florida and done an outstanding job for us.
Coach (Chuck) Smith did a great job in the state of Indiana in which we were able to sign three more kids along with the other kids that we have on our team from Indiana.
State of Tennessee, which Coach (Randy) Sanders continues to go into Tennessee and get players that we know and that fit our profile that we know can compete here in the SEC, and one kid from Alabama that Coach Martin just hangs around, hangs around until one shows up that we feel like can help us. The needs offensively, what we were looking for, the key to the class was to find a top ranked quarterback (Patrick Towles), and he came on early. He was coming back from his spring break, came over to the office, committed to us.
He became the face of this class, so we were able to get that top quarterback; playmakers at the wide receiver position (A.J. Legree and DeMarcus Sweat), as you all know, is something that we had to go for. We feel good about that position, couple of SEC backs (DyShawn Mobley and Justin Taylor). We were kind of hanging around late, and when he (Taylor) became available we reached out and touched people that we had relationships with and we were able to attract him and those relationships were strong and there were a lot of people who hadn't seen this place, and the kid hadn't really seen this place, and that speaks volumes to me on the relationships that we have, because the kid hadn't seen the place and late in the game decided to join us and gain a top ranked back.
A Wildcat type quarterback, that was important for us to find (Jalen Whitlow), especially the way we played in the last game. Sometimes things happen you have to get into different packages and I think when we can get an opportunity to add a package to our offense that's great.
He is a Randall Cobb type athlete. It's hard to compare to be with Randall Cobb, but that's what Randall was when we got him, we think he's the type of player.
Big offensive linemen, I'm not talking about big this way, but big this way (tall)! And Coach Summers, his profile, he wants guys over 6 4 and the one thing he says is he and Coach Nord say, "If you want NFL offensive linemen, they have to look like them." There are some exceptions, especially at the center position, they could be more athletic, smaller, but we want to get the guys but we were able to get those guys over the 6 4 mark and especially on the edge and on the offensive line.
Defensively we are all learning how to recruit to this new system. This new system requires us to have more athletes on the field, what you are seeing offensively, with the spread, people are running the spread and running a power game with it, power packages, you better have athletic guys that cannot only play out in space but they better be physical enough to play over tight ends and playing the power game. So, the back seven, it was really important that we go out and try to fulfill those needs because of the production that we lost in the back seven, the back seven being the linebackers and the secondary.
We signed 11 guys in those positions, in the linebackers and the secondary; seven in the defensive backfield and four linebacker type bodies. We were able to add to what we think should be our strength on defense, the defensive line, still able to go out and find three quality defensive linemen. Any questions?
Q. Re: opportunity for defensive backs to come in and play
COACH PHILLIPS: Obviously we recruit guys that one of the selling points was you were going to have an opportunity to come in here and play.
Again, we will continue to do what we have done in the past, our present players will be battling for the 1 and 2 spots because we want to give our new kids this new class an opportunity to get enough reps to see if they can come in and help us. They will come in at the 3 spot. Some, because of depth, may come in at the 2 spot because of depth, so they will all get an opportunity early to see if they can help us.
We feel like the more that can help us again, we played 11 out of our class last year, and this class should be able to come in and help us, even more this year.
Q. re: Jonathan Reed and Cody Quinn
COACH PHILLIPS: Reed and Quinn, first of all you want guys in the secondary that are wanting to compete. These guys are good competitors, they better have a short memory, because things happen back there, better be physical, better be tough and guys that want to get up in people's faces and challenge them; that's the way we play.
When they walk into the room, they light it up, they are guys that people want to be around. We always talk about "This is a guy that I would hang out with in college," and both of those guys are it.
Q. Possibility of Quinn being a kick returner
COACH PHILLIPS: We talked about the return game with Quinn, same with Reed; they need to be dynamic returners, also.
Q. When did you get word that the late commitments were going to sign?
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, I mean, we had heard, had a couple of ideas that these kids were probably going to sign with us, but you never know. And one guy (Taylor) was two miles from the school, from home to school, a lot can happen in two miles, a lot! Especially in Atlanta, two miles is probably forty minutes, right? (Chuckles.) And we heard that he was headed to the school to fax it, you don't want to get too excited but there is some excitement in your belly. It erupts when the fax comes through.
I think Dick (Gabriel) had a chance to experience it, the excitement that our staff had when he came in, when the fax came in on both of those guys. Again, we thought that both might sign, but you don't get excited until those faxes really come through the machine.
Q. Re: the excitement in the recruiting room when the new commitments came through.
COACH PHILLIPS: Lit up, it lit up. It made us better coaches, no question about that. We tell the players we got better today when every one of the kids on the side of this room came in. The first one that came in was this guy up here (Towles). That's what you better have. You better have a guy that's going to pull the trigger, going to be the leader and the face of your program, that's going to be the first guy that shows up and his was the first that showed up.
Q. Re: Patrick Towles and what he brings
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, again, Kentucky guys, parents are born and raised here, his grandfather (Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning), we know what type of athlete he was, and actually he will wear his number, he will be No. 14, I think that was important to him. Again, high character, he is a guy that will get a degree and a guy that wants to be successful here at Kentucky and I think that's important.
It's very important for this staff, important for him. Again he was a guy identified early, established a relationship, got him to commit, and didn't worry, okay, did not worry about people coming in and trying to sway him. Because he was a high character type kid.
Q. What did you like about him?
COACH PHILLIPS: Big, big athlete that can throw the football. He's a guy that came in here, I think he's at 230; he was 242. Hopefully he doesn't get as big as his quarterback coach he has right now (Chuckles.) But big athlete, takes charge, he's a film room junkie, winner, went in as a sophomore when the starting quarterback goes down, he was the guy that went in and all he did was lead 'em to a state championship as a sophomore and then went on to win two more after that. He's the guy that's the type of leader that we need to be the face of this program.
Q. Re: concern over Towles’ commitment
COACH PHILLIPS: With a guy like Patrick Towles, no, very little concern, let's put it that way because I got a call at 10:30 from him, woke up out of a sleep and all he wanted to know was, "Coach, does the SEC letter need to have a time on it?" And, again, he's the type of kid that we were looking for. He committed early, and the profile, the kind of kid that we believe in, he stayed strong to what he believed in.
Q. Re: deciding which defensive backs play cornerback and which play safety
COACH PHILLIPS: We will have some that we have identified to be corners, some that we have identified to be safeties, some that we have identified to be the hybrid safety. What this allows us to do is maybe some of the kids that are in our program that are the hybrid type of guy that's probably in development, couple years ahead of these guys in development might allow us to move them inside closer to the ball.
When you move 'em closer to the football it makes us a faster football team defensively.
Q. Re: Patrick Graffree being the type of player you want at Kentucky
COACH PHILLIPS: Coach Turner, did you hear that one? Patrick Graffree, is he the type of kid that you want at Kentucky? All you have to do is follow him, he's going to give you information every day. He's a guy that's proud to be a Wildcat and not ashamed to show it. Patrick Graffree is not ashamed to show it, he's proud to be a Wildcat.
Q. Re: the challenge of finding linemen
COACH PHILLIPS: It's real important to grow your big guys close to home, I think that's real important. We have had success in doing that here, (Corey) Peters, (Myron) Pryor, (Garry) Williams, we have had guys that have had success here and not only success here but at the next level. It's real important for us, if we can, to grow our big guys close to home.
Q. On opportunity for Towles to compete for playing time
COACH PHILLIPS: It definitely is, they all have an opportunity to play and to compete for a job here.
Q. Re: recruitment of Justin Taylor
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, he was on campus and he did not see many of our coaches. He was on campus two weeks ago, and we got word of him being here with an academic team here on campus, we got wind, we invited him over, Coach Sanders was the only coach that he got a chance to see along with Tyler Sargent, showed him around the facility, our trainers checked out his knee and felt that he would be ready for June, and we feel that he will be ready to come back and display his ability in the fall camp as an SEC back.
He's not as big tall-wise as he is compact, and I think that's what an SEC back better be, to withstand the blows that he's going to take, Dyshawn (Mobley) is the same type of back; he has the ability to make people miss. Coach Sanders always talk about one guy in the back end that you can't block, and we want backs that if we turn the safeties loose, about the third period, they don't want to tackle them. Sometimes when we go in and have plays, our receivers will go in and dig out safeties. Now it's the corners, they don't want to tackle these guys after period one, and we have a couple of those guys, and we think that's important.
Q. Re: Khalid Henderson
COACH PHILLIPS: Khalid Henderson was a guy that we were sitting there waiting, when he became available, Coach Minter had a chance to go down and visit with him, and he liked the look in his eyes, liked him physically and I say "physically" because you better like 'em physically first, you know, because it's just like when I met my wife, I saw her from a distance, I better like what I saw first, before I approach her (laughter).
And Coach came back and described him to us, he liked him physically, you kinda question until you see him for your own eyes, and when I did that, it was exactly what Coach Minter saw, again, fit the profile of what we want to be the face of our defense, and that's what the linebacker is, the face of our defense, and he runs around and makes play after play after play. Coach and him sat down and watched film, and it was only on Danny Trevathan. Coach doesn't mind long meetings when he has a recruit on campus, and Khalid didn't mind those long meetings. We are looking for football junkies, and that's what Khalid is. He saw the potential to be put into the position that Danny Trevathan was in making plays for us.
Q. Re: offensive line signees are already the size of college linemen
COACH PHILLIPS: It definitely helps when you can bring in offensive linemen that look like SEC offensive linemen. Now, their strength levels might not be up there yet but we brought one in last year in Darrian Miller whose strength levels weren't there, but he was athletic enough and mentally he could handle it, therefore he was and, again, talent will overcome experience and his talent overcame some of the experienced guys that was in front of him.
We think these guys are talented enough, we got to get 'em physically ready to compete at a high level, but physically their bodies, they have long arms, at the tackle position. We have a couple of guys that have enough strength to play inside, we just got to get 'em prepared mentally.
Q. Re: possibility of Towles being further along because of having worked with Jared Lorenzen
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, just because of the system that he's been in, also, not just Jared They (Highlands HS) do a good job of developing quarterbacks, he (Coach Dale Mueller) was there before Jared, Coach Minter had one of his guys, a kid from Cincinnati (Gino Guidugli), so they have done a good job of developing quarterbacks, it's the system there. We feel like it gives him a chance to compete and compete early.
Q. Re: being able to see a player in summer camp
COACH PHILLIPS: That's huge! That's huge! We don't worry about what stars any of you guys might put on 'em, it's huge. I value, I really value the valuation back there in that room more than I do some guy that's putting stars on guys. Just watched a couple reels of film and put a star value on those guys.
I value Coach Summers and his evaluation. And being able to work with guys in two sessions of camp means more than to me than anything, and some of them might not be ranked as high as some of our folks might want, but I don't remember Dermontti Dawson having a huge star on him, he might have been a zero star when he came in because he hadn't played a lot of football, and he couldn't bench, but he left here a five star guy. And that's the reason I value the evaluations of those guys in the back room, along with this guy here in the front.
One thing we want to do is see all of our kids practice, also, we want somebody to see 'em do something physically, and that's what I value. I don't value the star system.
Q. Re: recruiting of Langston Newton
COACH PHILLIPS: Langston Newton, he has been (here), but it isn't as easy as you would think. You would think that we have a good relationship with his family and his family has been outstanding through the time that Morgan has been here but the recruitment of Langston was not as easy as you think. He wanted to do his own thing, he wanted to go about this process in his own way, he took Morgan out of it and his family out of it and he's, again, high character kid, very intelligent kid that did his homework. He didn't allow Morgan to do his homework. He did his own, and we were able to land him because of that, because he felt strong enough about this program himself.
Q. Re: seeing DyShawn Mobley in the summer
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, we made the decision at camp that Dyshawn was good enough to play in this league. We made that decision that night at camp. After going through the testing, after watching him go through the drills, watching how he worked, how he interacted with other people. The problem was we didn't know him, okay, we did not know him and a lot of the other kids we didn't know, some others that we offered in camp. One thing we wanted to be fair is to this program. Let's establish a relationship with him, let him establish a relationship with us.
We asked him to come back up here, he did, we asked him to come back up for a game, Coach Pardue went down to watch him play a game, we got around the school, so we are now starting to establish a relationship because if we would have offered him then and there and he would have committed because we hadn't established a relationship, it's hard to think that the commitment would have been strong enough to keep him.
But because of the relationship that we built with him first, then the trust that he had in us and us telling him, "Love to offer you now, but we would like to get to know you." That's it, that's what we told him, and it's hard to do in this business, and because we were honest and up front with him, that's the reason we were able to hold off the teams that tried to come in and sway him.
Q. How many of the signees were seen in he summer?
COACH PHILLIPS: Oh, I don't know. Somebody count that up, how many guys were in our camp? I don't know. Lots! Lots! I know the Blaylock triplets were in our camp, I can tell you that! I've been asked that numerous times, Chapman was in our camp, Patrick Graffree was in our camp, Foster was in our camp twice, Nord? Harris was not, more than that now, T.J. Jones 15. I value those guys back there evaluations. We had two sessions when they were in our camp, that's two sessions to work with 'em and that's what I value.
Q. Re: what attracted the coaches to Landon Foster
COACH PHILLIPS: Foster? Made it rain, Coach Nord? Didn't he, Coach Nord? Make it rain, that's his term, and the ball has to sound different. You know an SEC punter when you hear him, you know an SEC kicker when you you don't have to see it, you can close your eyes and walk past and it's going to sound different than a pee wee punter. This guy is an SEC punter, high character kid, intelligent, right look in his eyes, room lights up when he comes in.
Q. Re: challenge of recruiting with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, this is the toughest league no, doubt about that and we have proven that we have been right in the mix here, and this gives us plenty of hope that we feel like we can compete with the top ranked teams. I think we've beaten every team in the east in the last four or five years except for Florida, beaten many of the teams in the west and went toe to toe with 'em, so we feel comfortable with us being one of those top ranked programs, also, we just got to find consistency in the program.
Q. Re: after defeating Tennessee and signing his class, does the program have momentum?
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, we have a lot of momentum right now. With that win over Tennessee and with this class, but it means nothing, means nothing. We have to continue the development of the players that we have on our campus and that's the way to get better, is development of the players and also additions. We have added a quality class, the thing that we have to do is have some momentum going into not only fall camp but also have momentum going into the football season.
Q. Re: being able to sell the opportunity to play
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, we are. We are selling the opportunities to play. If you look at our top classes we don't have a lot of numbers in our top classes so that becomes an opportunity for a young guy to come in here and play.
Again, 59 players, three years or more (eligibility remaining), it's going to be harder for us to sell that. Especially with the quality, not only the numbers, not only the 59 kids that have three years or more but the quality in that 59 that we have.
Q. Re: importance of getting wide receivers
COACH PHILLIPS: It was key for us to get some quality wide receivers and one of 'em was in camp, right? (DeMarcus) Sweat was in camp and, again, trust his evaluation, trust Coach Sanders and I used to be a decent wide receivers coach, and we feel good about him, and along comes A.J. Legree. Before he went to the All Star game, we offer him, everybody else hears about the All Star game and they start to come in, again, Coach Sanders established a relationship with the coach and with A.J. Legree, the kid commits and that's trust in my opinion, building a relationship with a kid when the kid commits before showing up on campus and, again, because of the profile of the kid that we're looking for, understood what commitment meant, they weren't able to sway him.
Q. Re: why rival schools were unable to sway Jordan Watson
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, the profile of the kid that we have. There is a reason why they weren't able to sway Jordan Watson -- high character, understands what a commitment means, he wants to get a quality degree and that's what we have here, kids that want to get quality degrees, therefore they aren't able to sway those type of kids.
Q. Re: getting an early look at the 2013 class
COACH PHILLIPS: And we did. Some we saw four or five weeks in a row with a different coach coming in to see them, just to get our face, our logo in front of them, again, that's how you establish relationships, and it's hard to come between when you've established that type of relationship with the kids.
It's a really good class, we will have a couple of junior days to build the relationships that we have established. We were able to get into Cincinnati, we blitzed it one Friday and that's what we tried to do is use our Fridays and use them wisely by getting into areas close to home, but Fridays are usually a short day, a day that you don't get a chance to see some recruits because they are usually on visits so we use it to stay closer to home and see some of our (2013) ‘13 kids which gave us a chance to establish relationships, have 'em on campus, just continue to build on that relationship.
Then we get a commitment from them we feel strong about that commitment.
Q. On Phillips’ strong stance on positive recruiting
COACH PHILLIPS: It has definitely set us apart. Sundays I meet we have the kids to my house on Sunday for Sunday brunch and I meet with those kids and their parents in my office and the thing that I hear the most is, "Coach we get a lot of information here at Kentucky." We don't spend time talking about other people's problems; we don't do that. We spend our time wisely, and our time wisely here at Kentucky is talking about what we have here at Kentucky.
If I'm talking about Matt May, I'm wasting Joker Phillips, and I'm wasting time. The thing we want to do is sell our program, and the thing that I hear from our parents and we had, I bet you 95, 96% of these kids had their parents on campus with them when they came on the visit, and all of those parents talked about getting more information at Kentucky than we do any other school and a lot of that has to do with us selling Kentucky. We're not spending time talking about somebody else's problems.
Information with our CATS center, about our coaching staff, our conference, we have 108 majors, we sell Kentucky. We show them our stadium, our video boards, we have this beautiful city that we have here in Lexington, so we are selling Kentucky and pumping them with information to help them make a wise decision about what is going to be on their wall for the next forty years, that degree.