Clay: UK football awash in sea of boo

Negativity shared by fans, ex-players

jclay@herald-leader.comOctober 13, 2011 

John Clay

The kind gentleman in the back of the room was waiting for me Monday night.

This was during a speaking engagement with a men's church, and the man with a question had come armed with three recent Herald-Leaders.

He read a headline saying UK was taking its "no offense" to LSU. He read a headline saying UK was "flattened" at South Carolina. He read from my column on Kentucky's 54-3 loss in which I said that UK woes extended back to the fumble last year against Tennessee.

"You had to reach all the way back into last year," he said.

"Yes, I did," I replied.

He said that to be fair we did print Danny Trevathan produced another double-digit tackles game at South Carolina, but buried the information where "no one could find it."

His question: "How can we expect to get recruits to help the football program when they read this sort of negativity in the local paper?"

My reply: "Did you watch the game Saturday?"

Then there's the other side of the opinion coin. According to the Web site A Sea of Blue, during the UK-South Carolina game, there was a tweet from former UK offensive lineman Zipp Duncan:

"I hope our DBs know how to stop, drop and roll ... cause they are getting burnt."

And this from former offensive lineman Christian Johnson:

"yeah sis ... it was already rebuilt ... that's what (rich) brooks did ... joker tried to fix something that wasn't broke."

Joker is Joker Phillips, the current UK football coach who on Wednesday tried to brush off the critical tweets as no big deal.

"My (old) teammates do it also," said Phillips of the criticism. "They did it when they left and we were 9-3. That's their prerogative. ... I don't know if it's recent players or what and I don't really care. We just care about trying to get this football team better."

Everyone agrees on the need for improvement. The Cats are 2-4 overall, 0-3 in the SEC. They were outscored 137-20 in their last three games.

Even the winners have negativity issues. Before his Tuesday news conference, South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier refused to talk to the print media as long as that Columbia (The State) newspaper columnist Ron Morris — "that negative guy over there," according to Spurrier — was in the room.

The Head Ball Coach's rant came a day after a former UK football player dubbed this columnist "Captain Obvious" in an email and argued that, "I am sure the players themselves aren't concerned with your thoughts, but future recruits and their parents are no doubt influenced."

Are we really that powerful? I doubt it. How then was Brooks, with Phillips' help, able to recruit when the Cats were struggling and fans and media were throwing stones?

In fact, some coaches say experience shows it is often easier to recruit off a bad season, when playing time is there for the taking, than it is off a good season, when recruits may be afraid they will have to ride the pine for an extended stretch.

Still, there's no denying that right now UK football is awash in a sea of bad vibes and bad luck.

Latest example: Two days after the offense slides to 119th out of 120 schools nationally in total offense, leading rusher Josh Clemons undergoes knee surgery and is lost for the season.

Here's a positive: This is an off week. No game on Saturday.

"I think everybody is kind of emotionally, mentally, physically worn out right now," said senior offensive lineman Stuart Hines after Wednesday's practice before Saturday's open date.

"The past three games have been rough on us. You get a chance to just kind of catch your breath, regroup, come back out and finish off the season."

On a more positive note.

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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