Now that Charleston Southern is out of the way, Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips can officially talk about extending the program's bowl streak.
Twelve seniors will try to become the first class in UK history to go to five consecutive bowl games, and that mission can be accomplished with a victory against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Phillips said the streak is important for several reasons.
One, it gives the program a month of extra practices. That would allow Phillips to rest regulars like quarterback Mike Hartline and receiver Randall Cobb and give playing time to young quarterbacks Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski, along with receivers Brian Adams and E.J. Fields.
Kentucky is also redshirting six defensive linemen — Alvin Davis, Mike Douglas, Brice Laughlin, Elliot Porter, Brice Laughlin and Justin Henderson.
"We've got some good young players that need the work," Phillips said.
December also serves as a big recruiting month. When the UK staff brings in prospects for official visits, not only can they go to basketball games, they can also watch football practice.
"A lot of players in areas we recruit don't get to come to campus and see us play or practice," Phillips said. "Those recruiting weekends allow us to take them to practice, and that's an extra spring practice for our young kids."
And when guys like Rafael Little, Keenan Burton, Wesley Woodyard, Andre Woodson and Jacob Tamme come back, Phillips wants to be able to tell them he's continuing to build on the foundation they helped set.
Phillips flashed back to his playing days when the Wildcats went to back-to-back bowls in 1983 and '84 but then didn't return to one until 1993, when Phillips had come back as an assistant coach under Bill Curry.
"When I left here in '84, we went to two straight (bowls), and it was really important to me to see it continue," Phillips said. "Unfortunately it didn't continue. I would think it would be important for all those guys who started this thing, and very important to this football team that we get this program to a bowl not only this year but for years to come."
Kentucky (5-5, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) will enter the game against Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5) with a relative clean bill of health, with the exception of Derrick Locke. Locke, who has missed UK's past three games with a shoulder injury, is still day-to-day.
"Again, it depends on how he feels in his ability to take care of himself," Phillips said. "We've got some bumps and bruises, but we should have everybody except for Locke."
Murphy part of Senior Day
Junior walk-on Brian Murphy has informed Phillips that he will forego his final season of eligibility and participate in Senior Day festivities.
Phillips said no other juniors have informed them that they were planning on participating.