VAUGHT: Players helping Lagrange pipeline

Joker Phillips has been widely praised for having a recruiting pipeline to LaGrange High School, one of the best football programs in Georgia.

It started when Phillips persuaded Wesley Woodyard to sign with the Wildcats — and Woodyard led the Cats in tackles the last three years. Linebacker Braxton Kelley, receiver DeMoreo Ford and defensive back Randall Burden have followed Woodyard to Kentucky.

Phillips recently made his second trip to LaGrange this spring to keep the recruiting hotline alive as there are several players the Cats would eventually like to have on the roster. However, Phillips says it is time to quit giving him credit for recruiting those players. Instead, the former LaGrange players are the ones who deserve the kudos for the continued success.

"The thing is when you go to a LaGrange practice, you see Braxton there. Wesley was there. Randall was there. Those are things that help us and you can't make players do," Phillips said. "You see those guys coaching them up and wearing their Kentucky gear. That is what is impressive and makes my job easier.

"Randall was running routes for the defensive backs. Wesley was coaching the linebackers. Braxton was doing the same thing. Those guys are selling Kentucky every minute they are there."

Phillips says it is hard to explain the intensity at LaGrange that makes players like Woodyard, Kelley, Ford and Burden so valuable when they get to college.

"They were doing a defensive goal line drill when I was there and to see those kids really get jacked up for defense was impressive. But that's what they do at LaGrange. They get all fired up for a scrimmage, which was amazing for me to watch. They got into every play," Phillips said.

"That's what we have to get going at our place. We want kids who go to the NFL to come back and help us because that helps the program. It's kind of similar to what Miami had all those years when they had those great teams. They have that at LaGrange. We need that at Kentucky."

Phillips believes UK's recent seniors — Woodyard, Keenan Burton, Jacob Tamme, Steve Johnson, Andre Woodson, Eric Scott, Rafael Little — will do that.

"That group will be back. A lot of them are Kentucky kids, but they all bled blue when they left. They will be back every chance they get and that will make us a better program," he said.

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