"Last year we brought in 25, 11 of those got on the field, could have easily been four or five others that could have got on the field. We feel that this is that type of class and might even be better than the class we put together last year," said the Kentucky coach Wednesday.
Kentucky signed only four in-state players — quarterback Patrick Towles of Highlands, defensive back Josh Harris of Mason County, defensive linemen Patrick Graffree of Central Hardin, and Thomas Chapman of Manual. However, the Cats inked eight from Georgia, four from Florida, two from Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee.
Phillips hopes the Cats made strides to restock a defense that loses three linebackers, two cornerbacks and one safety out of its starting lineup.
"Defensively we are all learning how to recruit to this new system (brought in by coordinator Rick Minter last year). This new system requires us to have more athletes on the field," Phillips said. "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. 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; 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, and find three quality defensive linemen."
Fifteen of Kentucky's 25 signees also attended summer camp last year to give the UK?coaches a chance to evaluate them personally on the playing field. Phillips says that's more important to him than how many stars a recruiting analyst assigns to a particular prospect.
"We don't worry about what stars any of you guys might put on 'em. I value, I really value, the evaluation 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," the UK?coach said.
"I value (offensive line) coach (Mike) 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 (former UK lineman and all-pro) 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 (press), but he left here a five-star guy. That's the reason I value the evaluations of those guys (coaches) in the back room, along with this guy (assistant coach Tee Martin) 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."