Talk about selling your brand.
Since taking over for Rich Brooks in January, Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips has traveled the state far and wide spreading the word about the UK football program.
He's spoken to Rotary clubs, hosted clinics, shaken hands, rubbed elbows, kissed babies, you name it. Phillips said he did 49 speaking engagements from the time he started the job until the end of June.
Now Phillips can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Phillips hosted his first UK Kickoff Luncheon Friday, which usually means the start of the season is coming up. The Wildcats open the season at Louisville on Sept. 4.
"I'm ready to get down to some football," Phillips said. "(The Kickoff Luncheon) means it's about to kick off. I'm excited about this one because it's the last one."
Not that Phillips was complaining about making the rounds. He knew that's what he signed up for when Brooks tabbed him as his replacement. And Phillips' personality makes him a natural.
"That's what I do," Phillips said. "It's been a little bit (of a grind), but that's what I do. I've always been a guy that's been on the go."
The Bleacher Report ranked Phillips' appearance at SEC Media Days tops among the 14 coaches, even ahead of Vanderbilt newbie Robbie Caldwell, who received an ovation from the media. Phillips said he sits down and prepares his presentations, which usually include a funny story or two and a detailed vision of his "Operation Win" theme.
The biggest questions regarding the 2010 Wildcats are on the offensive line, where four starters new starters must be broken in, and on defense, where standouts such as defensive tackle Corey Peters, cornerback Trevard Lindley, and linebackers Micah Johnson and Sam Maxwell must be replaced.
Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders and defensive coordinator Steve Brown feel confident the new guys will be up to the challenge.
"We have a lot of guys to replace, but every year it's that way," Brown said. "The good thing is we have some talent."
Just exactly when the UK-U of L should be played has been a hot topic over the last few years. The Louisville camp wanted to keep the game as the season opener, while Brooks preferred to play it later in the year. The two schools came to a compromise in 2007: the game will be the season opener when it's in Louisville and then move to the third week when it's in Lexington.
Phillips said Friday he didn't have a preference, but he did note UK is 2-0 when the game is played in the third week.
"I'm a Kentuckian, I've been here a long time, and there was a long time in my life when we didn't play this series," he said. "So I'm just happy we play it whether it be the first, third or last game. It brings a lot of excitement for football in the state of Kentucky. But it's worked out for us. We haven't lost when it's been the third game."
No word on Cobble
Phillips said he is still waiting for a final verdict on the academic eligibility of redshirt freshman defensive tackle Mister Cobble and three signees from the 2010 class. Cobble's status likely won't be known until at least Aug. 5, the last day of the eight-week summer session. Phillips said he should know about the others by early next week.