Much has been written and said about how the NFL lockout has hurt the future players, the current players, the coaches and the fan bases, but it's not often you hear people talk about the upside of the lockout.
It's definitely been a positive for Kentucky football, Coach Joker Phillips said this week to a select group of reporters at the Southeastern Conference's annual Media Days in Birmingham.
"We've probably benefitted from the lockout as much as anyone," Phillips said.
Having former players who are now in the NFL come back to Lexington to work out this summer has been helpful for UK's players and coaches.
Former players seen around the football facilities this summer have included Jeremy Jarmon, Corey Peters, Wesley Woodyard, Micah Johnson, Alfonso Smith and Tim Masthay.
Phillips said he isn't shy about using them as examples for his current crop of Cats.
"Every chance I get I put one of those guys in front of our players and talk about the struggles we went through early," Phillips said.
"I want our kids to understand the struggles that some of our kids had to get to that level," he continued. "It's important for our kids to know where we come from and where we want to go to. All those guys are helping us get where we want to go."
McIntosh shocks Phillips
It's not often that a kicker shocks his coach in the off-season, but junior Craig McIntosh out of Lexington Christian definitely surprised Joker Phillips when he told the coach that he was quitting the ROTC to join the football team full-time.
"That was a shocker to me," Phillips said. "We accommodated him and the obligations he had with the military. I loved the fact that he was there and it spoke volumes to our other kids when a guy goes from early-morning runs with the ROTC, leaves there, then comes and runs with us."
Because that's the kind of player Phillips wants to see in the program, he put him on a full scholarship.
"He's very deserving," the coach said of the place-kicker, who made 11 of 15 field goals last season and all but one of his 35 extra-point attempts.
Kentucky connections key
Some college staffs might have few in-state connections, but not Kentucky. Joker Phillips pointed out at Media Days that there are five Kentuckians on his coaching staff, including three former UK lettermen.
Phillips said it's one of the things that makes his staff special.
"Might not be important at some other places, but I think it's important for Kentucky football that there are guys that truly want to be there," he said. "It's juice, it's passion for the job that you have."
Beasts of burden
Stuart Hines knows there are many unproven names and faces on the offensive side of the ball this season.
But the offensive guard from Bowling Green said they need to know they can lean on their line as they're learning.
"We're really looked at as the strong point of the team this year and we're trying to live up to those expectations," he said at Media Days. "We want to be the group on the team that everybody relies on."
Hines especially likes the chemistry of this group.
"It's a great group of guys," he said. "We've really come together as a unit. ... We've got guys on the line who have a lot of experience and experience is a huge part of being a good player and being a good group on the team. We've all played together for two years now and we're really starting to come together and be able to rely on each other and trust each other."
Junior quarterback Morgan Newton has spent a lot of time this off-season with former UK QB-turned-student assistant coach Andre Woodson.
Newton also joked that Woodson has made him watch too many of his old playing-day films.
Newton still isn't sure what the future holds for this year's version of the Cats versus Woodson's glory days, but the current quarterback is confident in this: "I'll tell you one thing, we're going to look better than they did," Newton told the media. "Have you seen (our) new uniforms?"
When told of this, Woodson couldn't help but take a tiny swipe at Newton.
"They're pretty sweet," Woodson said of the new threads. "And he's definitely a guy who takes pride in how he looks, so he better perform well in them."
No escaping basketball
It's not Media Days without someone asking a UK football player about attending a "basketball school."
Linebacker Danny Trevathan took his version of that question in stride.
"Some people see Kentucky as a basketball state, and that's fine. We're trying to make it so that people know that Kentucky football is good as well," he said. "We're trying to make a name for ourselves that is going to carry along with basketball. They've been doing their thing since day one, and we have to start taking care of our business and be put up on a pedestal with them."
Tweets and twits
When Joker Phillips was asked this week about the team's social media policies, the UK coach struggled at times with the new verbiage associated with Twitter.
But he said his message to his team about that communication form is much more clear.
"We tell our players that we only want you to put things on how you would interview if a camera is in front of you," he said. "Tell nothing about what's happening under this roof here."
He did say UK football has someone on staff specifically responsible for monitoring players' Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.
Phillips said the coaches try to remind the players that what they post doesn't just disappear the next day.
He tells his players they might as well start each tweet with the salutation "Dear (NFL) General Manager."
"That's who you're sending it to," he tells them. "You're not just sending it to a friend or a fan, you're sending it to everybody across the country. Some general manager is going to get what you said."
Jennifer Smith covers UK football for the Herald-Leader. This article contains her opinions and observations. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at Kentucky.com and follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader.