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By LARRY VAUGHT
Laura McKeeman is a recruiting analyst for FOX Sports and Scout.com and has covered college football recruiting, basketball and baseball in the southeastern United States. SheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also part of the Tampa Bay Rays broadcast team on Sun Sports.
She was at the Southeastern Conference Media Days and offered these thoughts on Kentucky football after talking to UKÃ¢â‚¬Ë†coach Joker Phillips and three Cats Ã¢â‚¬â€ linebacker Danny Trevathan, offensive guard Stuart Hines and quarterback Morgan Newton Ã¢â‚¬â€ in Hoover, Ala., as well as listening and talking to coaches and players from the other 11 SEC schools:
Question: What was your general impression of Kentucky coach Joker Phillips and his players at SEC Media Days?
McKeeman: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I thought Joker Phillips was absolutely dynamic at SEC Media Days. He is a likable guy with an electric enthusiasm that is very contagious. He is optimistic while still being realistic which is much appreciated in the SEC. I also respect his ability to give others credit.Ã‚Â Coach Phillips repeatedly praised his assistants and the wonderful people he surrounds himself with.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Did anything in particular jump out at you that Phillips brought up or said during his media time?
McKeeman: Ã¢â‚¬Å“As I mentioned before, coach Phillips is so willing to credit his staff with success surrounding Kentucky football. Phillips is obviously aware of the impact Tee Martin has on his coaching staff and on the recruiting front. Phillips even said he could see Martin being a head coach someday soon but he hopes he doesn’t leave too soon because they love him at Kentucky.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I also liked how Phillips talked about getting over the Ã¢â‚¬ËœhumpÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ in the SEC and winning more games. It seems Kentucky has been pretty close to grabbing a few more digits in the win column over the past couple of years but they just haven’t been able to quite get it done. Phillips and staff are working on filling some holes on the recruiting front which I think will be the key to getting over that Ã¢â‚¬Ëœhump.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Anything about your expectations for Kentucky this season change after hearing all the Media Days talk?
McKeeman: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The toughest stretch for the Wildcats will start the first of October when they take on LSU in Baton Rouge and then head to SEC East favorite South Carolina the next week. These games will be very tough to win for Kentucky but the key will be staying focused and bouncing back if losses happen in that stretch so that they can get ready to welcome two Mississippi teams to Lexington. I am even more confident in the resiliency displayed by Wildcat coaches and players after Media Days and I see success coming as a result of the collective chip on their shoulders.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Is Danny Trevathan another example of astute recruiting by Kentucky of turning a two-star guy into a five-star player and is that the path UK will have to continue to take in recruiting or can UK beat schools like Florida, Alabama, Georgia for four- and five-star guys?
McKeeman: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It will be a mixture of both of these situations for Kentucky. I always say, great coaches are key, not the number of stars next to a player’s name. Kentucky’s Danny Trevathan is a testament to this and sometimes players that are a little bit underrated come in and work much harder than five-star players. This is not always the case but I think the best teams (national championship teams) are made of an even combination of great talent and hard workers.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes, you need excellent playmakers with natural ability and Kentucky will get those guys. It’s hard to beat Florida/Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Bama/Georgia for the really big-time guys, but Kentucky will continue to get more of those as they have more success on the field. In the meantime, making each one of their players the best player they can be will be integral in a recipe for winning that coach Phillips is attempting to concoct.
Question: What do you expect recruiting-wise from Kentucky in the next few months?
McKeeman: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Kentucky has already grabbed some great guys in 2012. The Wildcat coaching staff will now focus on recruiting some that they still need to land and also holding on to players like the (Zack and Daron) Blaylock twins and Patrick Towles. Tee Martin will continue to be crucial for UK recruiting in the coming months as he may be the staff’s recruiting ace.Ã¢â‚¬Â