It was quite a hectic week at the Nutter Training Facility this week, as Joker Phillips was scrambling last-minute to put together a strong finish to his 2010 recruiting class while having another eye towards 2011.
"We had someone watching fax, and we all had our cell phones in front of us, meanwhile we were talking to 11 guys on conference call," Phillips said. "It never stops. We're going to be as relentless in signing this next class as we were in signing the last guys for this class."
Phillips listed the offensive and defensive lines, cornerback and wide receiver as areas of need for 2011. Phillips also expects to sign a quarterback next February.
2011 is expected to be a banner year for in-state recruiting, and Phillips already has two commitments from Kentucky prospects: Eastern athlete/tight end Jon Davis and Bryan Station offensive tackle Darrian Miller.
Kentucky has offered several other juniors from the Bluegrass, among them: Boyle County linebacker Lamar Dawson, who also has offers from Cincinnati and Louisville; and Lexington Christian offensive lineman Zach West, who's been offered by Notre Dame, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Don't expect UK to give up on a pair of juniors who've committed to Louisville either — Seneca quarterback DaMarcus Smith and Ballard receiver DeVante Parker.
The Cats will have to be judicious, however, as they're expected to be quite a few scholarships short of the full allotment of 25.
Kentucky has built a well-chronicled pipeline at LaGrange (Ga.) High School, and now the Cats could be on the verge of building one at another Georgia program, Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain. UK signed three players from Stephenson last week: tailback Raymond Sanders, linebacker Jabari Johnson and tight end Ronnie Shields. Out of 32 seniors on the Stephenson roster, a whopping 29 of them signed to play college football, with eight of those signing at Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Phillips expects to be a regular at Stephenson over the years and said the school has several juniors who will get scholarship offers.
Stephenson also has one of the top sophomore prospects in the country, JaFar Mann, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound prospect who's already been offered a scholarship by Tennessee.
"They have the potential to be another LaGrange," Phillips said about Stephenson.
Bailey still working on academics
Defensive back Mychal Bailey, a LaGrange product who signed with UK on Wednesday, still has some academic work to do but is still planning on enrolling at Kentucky in the summer, according to LaGrange Coach Steve Pardue.
Another LaGrange recruit to keep an eye on down the road is cornerback Josh Manning, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound defensive back/wide receiver. Manning is a relative of former Wildcats Quentin McCord and DeMoreo Ford, and Pardue said Manning "is faster than either one of them." Manning signed with Southwest Mississippi Community College and could be on the Cats' radar in two years.
One prospect who had been on the Cats board was LaGrange (Ga.) quarterback Jamius Gunsby. Gunsby, a three-star recruit who had offers from UK and Florida, signed with South Florida.
Phillips was in his hometown of Franklin on Friday as part of a program honoring the 1980 Franklin-Simpson basketball team that made the Sweet Sixteen. Phillips also got an additional surprise, as a street, Joe "Joker" Phillips Lane, was named after him.
On Tuesday, Phillips will be the featured guest at Good Morning Bluegrass from 7:30-9 a.m. at Lexington's Hyatt Regency. The cost to attend is $25 per person for Commerce Lexington Inc. members, $35 for potential members. To register, contact Katie Hardwick at khardwick@CommerceLexington.com.
Then on Thursday, Phillips will be the guest speaker at the Bluegrass Kiwanis meeting at 11:30 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Campbell House. Cost is $11 and includes a buffet lunch.
'Jokerball' shirts available
Not only is Phillips a hot commodity on the speaking circuit, he's also now got his own T-shirt. "Jokerball" shirts are available in sizes youth medium and large to adult small through 4X. All shirts are $15 and can be purchased by contacting Serur Dawahare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-608-7357. Bulk orders are accepted.
Wright moves on
Former UK graduate assistant Dontae Wright has accepted a position coaching the defensive line at the University of North Alabama, a Division II program in Florence, Ala., coached by former Auburn Coach Terry Bowden. North Alabama is also where former Kentucky receiver Lonnell Dewalt transferred after leaving Lexington.
Chip Cosby covers UK football for the Herald-Leader. This article includes his opinions and observations. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.