It’s hard to put into words just how miserable this Kentucky football season has been. The best way to sum it up would be that it was better than Ole Miss. That’s an optimistic view, by the way. A pessimistic view would be that Ole Miss fired their head coach after they lost to the Wildcats two weekends ago. Things are not going well in Lexington for the football squad.
Needless to say, but this program must change its ways to have any chance to succeed in the future in the Southeastern Conference.
What has happened in Nashville that has brought about one of Vanderbilt’s most successful and bright seasons has been that they have changed their philosophies and schemes. Vandy has been the doormat of the SEC for years with Kentucky not much further ahead. However, over the last five seasons, Kentucky has been considerably more successful than the Commodores and had won most of their head-to-head match ups.
At no point should a Kentucky football team be 30 points worse than Vanderbilt. That is what this has come to. It can never happen again.
Kentucky can no continue to expect to get results recruiting the way that they have been and playing the offensive system that they do. The Wildcats, since the institution of Rich Brooks and now Joker Phillips, have ran and currently run a pro-style offense. The only way that this style of offense can be successful in the college game is if you have potential professionals that can execute that game plan. Since Andre Woodson left, Kentucky has not had a team capable of playing with that style of offense. Kentucky’s most success came when they had a play maker like Randall Cobb who was virtually expected to do everything for the Cats. With the Wildcat offense in play with Cobb, the Cats had their most success. Kentucky has to find their next Randall Cobb or their next Wildcat offense.
When your program is not blessed with the players of an LSU or a Florida, some improvisation, some innovation has to come into place. Some scheming must happen. The University of Kentucky football team, in its current state, can not just lineup and play football. They have to be different. They have to create an identity. They need to stand out to recruits and be a fun place to play. If Joker Phillips can take one page out of John Calipari’s playbook, it is that players like playing in the dribble-drive offense. It is one of the biggest draws to the program. That is what Phillips has to turn his program into. A place where guys want to play because it’s fun.
While he’s at it, he must change the way he recruits. There is an untapped resource just an hour north. The city of Cincinnati has so much talent that falls through the cracks or just winds up at Big Ten, Big East or MAC schools that are more than capable of playing in the SEC. Kentucky, who continues to try and recruit against the other SEC schools, are having little luck. While Joker has picked up Patrick Towles from Northern Kentucky, there are many more prospects in the surrounding area that can help this team out. The state of Ohio has a ton of talent, yet Kentucky and the SEC refuse to recruit there. What they are doing now isn’t working, so why not try something new and steal some kids away from those schools and give them an opportunity to play in the SEC?
Kentucky is already at a disadvantage being a basketball school with little financial backing. There are few Kentucky football boosters compared the basketball program. Their facilities are out of date and way behind the upper echelon schools in the conference. They are so far behind that it’s going to be difficult to improve. They have few playmakers on their roster right now capable of making a difference in this program. If those are things that they can’t change, they have to adjust the things that they can.
Phillips is a great guy and many like him in the program. But the results are clear and what he’s brought to the table so far isn’t good enough. Things don’t look likely to change much next season either with Towles being the most legitimate recruit he has landed. There have been few others joining him. Few of the highly touted freshman at the beginning of the year have contributed on offense so far, and the best defensive players will be graduating. Kentucky could be in even more trouble next year. If that in fact happens, it’s almost certain that Phillips will not survive another season like this.
Football coaches deserve more than just three years to get their program put together, but when that program is regressing and not improving, some changes will have to be made. Phillips’ only chance is to change what he is doing, otherwise he will find himself looking for a job and Kentucky will be starting a over much like Ole Miss will be doing next season.