BRYAN -- When you think Kentucky athletics, you think basketball. While the Wildcat hoops squad brought home a national title last season the football team struggled to a 5-7 record and missed out on going to a bowl for the first time since 2005. With a solid group of players back in 2012, this group of Wildcats wants to help bring football to the forefront in Lexington.
Joker Phillips enters his third season as the head coach at Kentucky, and there’s already talk of him being on the hot seat. The Wildcats saw a five year bowl streak snapped last season, and that losing record has the team motivated to turn it around in 2012.
Phillips is looking forward to a good season. “What gets us excited is how we played in our last four games. For some reason or another, a lot of young kids were thrust into the lineup and had to play significant roles; a lot of true freshmen for those last four games. We finished 2-2 in those games.”
Defensive end Collins Ukwu added, “We know that 5-7 team wasn’t us and that’s something that’s motivating us this year. We feel like we have something to prove.”
Kentucky will return five starters on defense and six on offense in 2012. The focus on offense is a battle at quarterback between senior Morgan Newton and sophomore Maxwell Smith.
“They’re competing against each other and they’re getting better for it,” said guard Larry Warford. “It makes them practice that much harder because they know that they’re both good so they want to play harder every day.”
The man who will deliver the ball the quarterback every play says it’s a dead head. “They’ve both been working hard in the summer and I’ve been able to snap with both of them and work with both. I’m 100 percent comfortable with either one and whoever wins the job coming around to camp time I know that they deserve it.”
The Wildcats were picked to finish dead last in the SEC East, a selection Kentucky obviously does not agree with, but they know to change perception all they have to do is win.
Phillips said, “We can’t focus on those things. We’ve got to focus on getting things righted in our ship. So we want to think about productive things and things that can help us get this thing to a bowl season this year.”
Kentucky fires up the season with a battle for the Commonwealth at Louisville. Their first SEC game is September 22 at Florida.