Notebook: Phillips brings credibility

The Gators needed help at the wide receiver position and got a rare find in a former SEC head coach to oversee the position. The Joker Phillips hire made plenty of sense when it was announced, but just under a week into fall camp, it's starting to prove its worth on the practice field. His experience in multiple positions on a coaching staff helps in fall camp.

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease had multiple roles last season. Not only was he over the entire offense and expected to coach the quarterbacks, the resignation of Aubrey Hill days before the start of fall camp in 2012 forced Pease to work with the wide receivers, too. Graduate assistant Bush Hamdan was seen as the position coach at wide receiver, but he didn't have the experience to handle it, forcing Pease to be spread too thin.

Enter Joker Phillips.

He has served in the SEC as a head coach, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator while serving at two schools in the conference. His addition helps Pease be in fewer places. He's still in charge of the offense, but if he needs to go watch the running game work while the receivers and quarterbacks run through one-on-one drills, he trusts Phillips enough to run the passing game for a few periods of practice.

"At times, he'll take some things over," Pease said. "I'll either stay with the quarterbacks or with the run game. He knows how to manage the drills."

The experience of Phillips also brings a respected voice to the coaches' meeting room. Hamdan worked with Pease at Boise State and had respect of the Florida offensive coordinator, but he was still young and hadn't been through the experiences of the older coaches.

Phillips and freshman wide receiver Demarcus Robinson

Phillips is different. He has been a household name in the SEC because of his time at Kentucky, and he's bringing some new ideas to the Florida offense.

"He's a very experience person in that position, he has good ideas and he knows what we run as far as our system," Pease said. "He fits into that. I think he's good in the fact he's challenged our kids in the wide receiver position. You bring a guy that's that much experience in and you look at his reputation and he gives you that authority figure that knows what's going on."

The first time Phillips met with the Florida receivers, he wanted them to know that he was for them. He heard about the criticism of their play in recent years, but in order for them to trust him, the receivers had to know that Phillips believed in them.

On the practice field, he's pushing them hard.

"I feel like Joker just pushes us," redshirt junior receiver Quinton Dunbar said. "He doesn't slack up off me or give me any leeway. He treats me like anybody else. I needed that. He's going to let you know what you doing wrong all the time. He's not going to let you slide one time."

HARGREAVES TURNING HEADS: Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is already earning the respect of the Florida secondary. Despite the depth at cornerback, the former five-star recruit is pushing to earn a role.

"Smart," Loucheiz Purifoy said. "He came in smart. He knows a lot. He has good technique. Just got to work on communicating. That's it. When I came in I didn't know as much as he knows. He's a good kid. He works a lot. You can tell he put the work in when he's not here."

AJAGBE LEARNING AT FULLBACK: The Gators needed a backup fullback to stay behind Hunter Joyer, and they found it in the spring. Gideon Ajagbe and Rhaheim Ledbetter were both moved to fullback in spring to learn. Both have drawn positive reviews, but Ajagbe's 6-3, 243-pound frame makes him an intriguing candidate.

"Gideon is a very good football player," Pease said. "I'm excited with what he is going to provide for us. I think he's talented enough to catch the ball at times, keep people off balance. He's very unselfish and willing to say, ‘Hey, I'm going to make these tailbacks 1,000-yard rushers' as far as what a fullback's mentality should be.

"Gideon, in the long run, will become a guy that is very versatile for us because he's got that tight end-type body and yet he can still be a fullback. He's smart. He's a smart kid. He knows how to break football plays down and adjust on the run."


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