VAUGHT: Players responding to coaches positively

Whether Joker Phillips and Kurt Roper can revive a Kentucky offense that was among the nation's worst last year won't be answered during spring practice. However, one thing is already clear -- the players believe the two coaches can do just that.

Whether Joker Phillips and Kurt Roper can revive a Kentucky offense that was among the nation's worst last year won't be answered during spring practice. However, one thing is already clear -- the players believe the two coaches can do just that.

That confidence can be seen in the way the Wildcats react to Phillips, UK's offensive coordinator, and Roper, UK's quarterback coach. Of course, it helps that Phillips and Roper have been as quick to point out what players are doing right as they have to note mistakes. That's a big, big change from last season.

"It makes a difference," said quarterback Andre Woodson. "That's just something we really did not have last year. It was not a team strength. There was a lot of negativity. We are just responding a lot better to these coaches now. They want to work on our strengths."

But do Roper and Phillips accept mistakes? Do they get on players when something is not right?

"It is great to hear some positive things, but when you mess up they still get on your case like they should," Woodson said. "That's fine because you need to hear what it takes to get better and what you messed up on. It won't help the team if they accept mistakes and don't get on you. But these coaches are doing a fantastic job of coaching us and the players are responding to them well. We love playing for them."

Don't underestimate that feeling. Last year I don't think you would have heard Kentucky's offensive players saying the same thing. Many didn't like the offense or believe in what the Cats were trying to do.

That's not the case this year. Or at least it doesn't seem to be.

"The coaches want to use our strengths this year. Our strengths are passing the ball with the athletes we have and then running," Woodson said. "We have speed and strength in our receivers. Instead of little hitches, we are taking shots down the field. That's what we really need. Once you take shots down the field, it opens up the running game. Then we can run more. If we can run more, then the defense is really guessing and we can do what we want. But it all starts with using our strengths and this coaching staff is going to do that."


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