VAUGHT: Phillips expects offense to be better

Joker Phillips returns potential all-conference performers at quarterback, receiver, tight end and running back to an offense that won eight games last year and beat Clemson in the Music City Bowl. KentucKy's offense was potent enough last year to overcome UK's defensive deficiencies. But can the Cats be that productive again offensively?

Can the Cats be that productive again offensively, even with the returning skilled players, now that SEC opponents are going to be much more concerned with the Cats' scoring ability?

" I think so. The one thing we got last year was that the ball bounced our way a lot. We created a lot of turnovers and we didn't turn it over a lot. If we can continue to do that and learn how to run the football better, I think we will be as good as anybody in this league," Phillips said.

Phillips says having a talented returning offensive team is much better than what he faced last year when there were numerous questions going into the season. Could Andre Woodson be a productive quarterback? Would Keenan Burton stay healthy? Could Jacob Tamme star at tight end? How could Rafael Little have a better year?

"It is a good problem to have with a lot of returning stars, but also you have to keep these guys grounded, too. We have not dealt well with success around here very well," Phillips said.

"The thing we have to do is keep them working hard. We have good character. When you have guys like we have, it makes it easier to get them going."

So it is really realistic to expect this offense to be better?

"I expect them, too. I think definitely it is realistic. There are a lot of things we can improve on," Phillips said. "Andre can throw for 4,000 yards and two interceptions or no interceptions. There is a lot he can do better. We can do better in the run game. It has to be something we can hang our hats on. People are going to try to start taking away our pass game. They are going to make us run the ball to be successful this year.

"I think offensive line will be fine. Athletically, they are as good as anybody we have had around here. Mentally, they are strong. They don't have a lot of size, but there are some 280- and 290-pounders in there that we feel we can get a hat on somebody. If they do that, we have good enough backs to make people miss.

"It's not going to be easy to have a more productive offensive team. That's why we have to work so hard this spring. But it is certainly realistic to expect us to be better because I know I expect us to be better."

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