KERRI BROOKS: Pre-game chat with Joker

There are many specials things about Kentucky football, and more importantly many special people involved with the program. If you have not had the pleasure of meeting many of the great coaches on this staff, you would not be able to get to the core of what is going on with Kentucky Football. "These guys are great" may be the slogan for the PGA Tour, but it also holds true for the coaching staff that has been assembled to turn this program around.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Joker Phillips before the bus ride to Vanderbilt, and I asked him some of those burning questions that many people have been wanting answers to. Perhaps the number one gripe I hear repeatedly from fans is; "Why do we always run the ball on 1st down?" I went right for the jugular and asked Joker just that.

"Why are we always running the ball on first down? (Inquiring minds want to know!)"

Joker: "There are several reasons we have run the ball on first down. In a game like South Carolina for example, we wanted to speed the game up. Running the ball on first down was with the intent of speeding the game up and keeping our defense off the field as much as possible. Another reason we have run on first downs is that I have always believed you should take advantage of your personnel. Until the recent return of Cook and Burton, the personnel we wanted to get the ball to were in our running game. We wanted to get the ball to Little."

"Is there a guy on the field that is a team leader and motivator that perhaps the public is unaware of?"

Joker: "Tommy Cook is a huge inspiration to this team, he is a serious motivator. Perhaps some people don't know that Matt McCutchan is a very vocal leader. He is a force on the offense."

Lets be glad he didn't suffer any suspension after the ejection last weekend for sticking up for teammate Andre Woodson.

"My Dad (Coach Rich Brooks) says McCutchan is one tough *&^%$* (player), playing with pain and injuries."

Joker:" No doubt about that. He is a warrior."

"Looking beyond this season, can you give me any insight as to what we have to look forward to next year? (Now that we can all exhale and get on with it?!)" Are there some redshirt freshman that you feel will come in and have an impact next year?"

Joker: "When we talk about redshirts, you have first year redshirts and second year redshirts. We have four guys who were starters at one point, who are second year redshirts now. Getting these guys back is going to be good for the team. We will get back WR Dicky Lyons, (FS) Marcus McClinton, (OG) Micah Jones, and also (TB)Tony Dixon. These guys will have an impact, and bring great experience. Some first year redshirts that I feel will have an early impact next year are; Jeremy Jarmon, a defensive end who is recovering from shoulder surgery, Ross Bogue, a tight end out of Georgia, Zach Hennis, a 6'8" 320 pound offensive tackle, and an up and coming tailback who will bring something to our running game, Alphonso Smith."

"If you had only one statement to make about the team this year, what would it be?"

Joker: "There have been a lot of distractions going on throughout the season, but distractions have not brought their attitude down. These guys are fighters. We had over 450 yards against a tough Auburn defense. (To give you some perspective, Kentucky had more passing yards against the Tigers than any other team this year with 330 yards receiving, 145 yards more than any other team. Also UK had more all-purpose yards than any other team to face the Tigers this year, with 525.) One of the most impressive visions I have this year is with about 1:30 minutes to go in the Auburn game, they were running the ball in for about a 35 yard touchdown. I saw Bo Smith sprinting from the opposite side of the field, never giving up, never slowing down, even when it was inevitable that it was going to be a touchdown. He never quit, and that is how I feel about this team. The coaches don't quit, and the players don't quit either."

"What can we expect from the Joker Phillips playbook this week against Vanderbilt?"

Joker: "We will be running the no huddle more and working on good communication out there. Protecting the football is key to us winning games. If you look at our conference losses this year, we lost them due to turnovers. The reason we had a chance and were in the Auburn game was because we didn't turn the ball over. Now that we have a couple of our playmakers like Burton and Cook back on offense, we can spread the field, and this will help open up our running game as well."

"How do you feel about the Offensive Line going into this game?"

Joker: "The Offensive Line is banged up which is to be expected coming into the 9th game of the season. Since last year we have started three true freshmen at left tackle; Aaron Miller (who left the team due to personal reasons after 10 starts last year), James Alexander, and now this weekend, Garry Williams. We are young, but we are very talented."

"If there was one thing you would like to say to the public that you have not had the opportunity to do, what would it be."

Joker: "The one thing I would really like to say to everyone is that this program does not need an 'energetic' young head coach like we keep hearing. A young coach would have been chewed up and spit out in this situation. A young coach would have succumbed to pressures and started questioning himself. He would have buckled under the pressure and started making changes in his coaching staff. A young guy would lose focus and start changing his plan. An experienced coach like Brooks knows what needs to be done and has stayed the course. That is what this program needs, someone with experience; who knows how to deal with pressures, and can stay the course. Look at the team; we are on the same page. The players are doing what we ask, and we are going to get it done."

With Joker's perspective, I believe I can safely say that this staff has a great balance of all of the above, because if you want young and energetic, Kentucky has that, too. If truth be known, however, behind every man is a good woman. I secretly believe that Joker's wife, Leslie (a top notch yoga instructor,) has got him doing some super secret yoga techniques at home to help him deal with all the stress this year. And BREATHE.

Joker Phillips is his name,
Turning the offense around is his game!
If he can't do it no one can!
Joker Philips he's our man!

(Ok, ok. My sister was the cheerleader, I know that was weak.)

Watch out Vanderbilt, here come the Cats. And that's NO JOKE! Beat Vandy.

Kerri Brooks is a CBS camera operator with substantial college football and NFL experience. Her job takes her to venues throughout the country, and she is fortunate to have met and formed relationships with many football coaches, analysts, and other experts in the field. And yes, she is the proud daughter of UK head football coach Rich Brooks. Visit with "BrooksDaughter" on the KSR Premium messageboard, where she appears to talk football, answer questions, and just be another UK football fan.

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