The transition period from Rich Brooks to Joker Phillips became official last week when players returned to campus for the start of the spring semester. Phillips held a team meeting on Wednesday before Brooks addressed the team for the first time since he announced his retirement.
Sophomore receiver Randall Cobb said it's going to take a while to get used to seeing someone other than Brooks in charge.
"Honestly, the meeting was a little awkward," Cobb said. "They're different guys with two different styles. Coach Joker made sure we were all sitting up straight, just little things like that."
The coach-in-waiting situation with Phillips accomplished many of the goals set when he was named Brooks' successor in January 2008, especially in recruiting. Players in UK's last two classes were informed that Brooks would probably not be around for their senior years.
And while Phillips said he planned to keep some of the structural elements of Brooks' model in place, he also made it clear that he would put his stamp on the program.
"(Phillips) told us we're not going to change a lot what Coach Brooks did as far as hard work and discipline," junior defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. "But he said there will also be some changes."
It didn't take Phillips long to start shaking things up. Shortly after he was introduced as head coach, he fired offensive line coach Jimmy Heggins and defensive line coach Rick Petri and hired Mike Summers and David Turner as replacements. Phillips also brought ex-UK receiver Tommy Cook in as a graduate assistant.
Lumpkin admitted that the defensive linemen were shaken up by the firing of Petri, who helped develop future NFL players Myron Pryor, Jeremy Jarmon and Corey Peters. But he said the players also understand the business side of it.
"We're going to miss Coach Petri," Lumpkin said. "But it happens. You can't expect everyone to stay when you have a new head coach. He's going to want to make some changes, and you just have to accept it whether you like it or not. But overall, everything was received well. We're all on board with Operation Win."
Phillips is expected to make other changes, not necessarily among the assistant coaches but in other staff positions. UK spokesman Tony Neely said the school can't officially announce staff changes until a seven-day posting period that is mandatory for university hires is complete
Cobb said the next few months will be pivotal for the transition to go smoothly. The team will begin winter workouts before spring practice gets under way in late March.
"The main objective is to get everybody on the same page," he said. "This is a big off-season for us. With all the coaching changes and new guys, we need to all be on the same page. I'm going to do the best I can to make sure we get there."
Cobb grew up in Alcoa, Tenn., just outside of Knoxville and has several friends on the Tennessee football team. But he declined to comment when asked about Lane Kiffin's abrupt departure to Southern California last week.
"I've talked to some of the guys, but I think I better just keep the talks we had confidential," he said. "Besides, I really don't care. I'm worried about Kentucky right now, not Tennessee."
Brooks said situations like Kiffin's are just a sign of the times.
"It's just very different," he said. "There's not a lot of consistency or integrity involved in some of the decisions in our game nowadays."
Central three-star linebacker Tim Patterson is still in the process of choosing between Louisville and Kentucky, his high school coach Ty Scroggins said this week.
Scroggins said Patterson was probably headed to UK before Charlie Strong took over as the U of L head coach.
"He's really torn," Scroggins said. "It's real tough on him. He really likes Joker, and (UK freshman linebacker) Ridge (Wilson) and some of his other high school teammates are at Kentucky."
Scroggins said the last thing Patterson would try to do is drag the recruiting process out to get a little extra attention.
"He's not that kind of kid," Scroggins said. "He skipped the U of L-UK basketball game because he didn't want to deal with everybody asking him what he was going to do. It's not about having an ego. He knows Feb. 3 (national signing day) is coming. He just doesn't know what he wants to do."
UK among final three for Humphrey
Three-star Hoover (Ala.) receiver Maudrecus Humphrey has narrowed his list to Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi State. Humphrey visited UK last weekend, was in Fayetteville this weekend and is scheduled to visit Starkville next weekend.
Humphrey's high school coach, Josh Niblett, said Humphrey will wait until after his MSU visit before he makes a final decision.
Former Kentucky linebacker Jon Sumrall was recently promoted to defensive coordinator at the University of San Diego. Sumrall previously coached the defensive line. Ex-UK running backs coach Ron Caragher is the head coach at San Diego.
UK recruit honored
LaGrange (Ga.) kicker Joseph Mansour, who has committed to Kentucky, was named to MaxPreps.com's Georgia All-Decade Team this week. Mansour made field goals of 59, 56 and 52 yards as a senior and sent 84 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone.
Five Cats to be at combine
Five University of Kentucky seniors — cornerback Trevard Lindley, linebacker Micah Johnson, fullback John Conner, linebacker Sam Maxwell and defensive tackle Corey Peters — have received invites to the NFL Combine Feb. 24-March 2 in Indianapolis. Peters was also invited to the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23 in Orlando but will sit out to rest a minor shoulder injury suffered in the Music City Bowl. Peters is expected to be 100 percent for the Combine. Another UK senior, running back Alfonso Smith, will play in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game on Feb. 6 in El Paso, Texas.
Lindley has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30 in Mobile, Ala.