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Now is the time for Joker Phillips to start using the young talent at Kentucky

By Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo

Bear Bryant used to say, “When you make a mistake, admit it; learn from it and don’t’ repeat it.”

It was no question that the Cats opener versus the Cards had its share of mistakes from the unexpected side of the ball in the defensive unit that shouldn’t have been made. However, what’s done is done and now it’s time to lick the wounds and move on to the next one. If only it were easier said than done for this Cats’ team.

Despite the gloomy start to the season I still continue to see something in this team that has the capabilities to achieve the unexpected not just on a mental level but a physical one as well. The only way that can be done is by this team growing a little backbone on the field during the game. I can say it time and time again but the only way for a team to have success is to translate that raw ability and talent on a Saturday when it counts.

When it comes to football in the SEC it has always been my philosophy that you put the best talent out there that is going to bring in the tangibles you need to win ball games plain and simple. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect but it does have to be effective. So you can imagine how shocked I was to not see this core group of young talent that has been endlessly talked about and I have observed get some more time during the Louisville game. They could have made the difference where it counted.

Too often when we think of youth we tend to focus on the inabilities rather than capabilities. The reality is though this is what we have at Kentucky a team full of youth so why not use what we have and make it work to our advantage.  Take a walk on the wild side for a bit and lets not be afraid to stray away from the conservative every now and again if it means winning games.

I think it’s important to credit the vets who have anchored this team and shared leadership that is vital for laying the foundation. However, at the same time we have to look ahead. These young guys like Pancho Thomas, Demarcus Sweat, Daryl Collins, Khalid Henderson just to name a few bring this dynamic energy that can awaken this dormant Cats program.  These young athletes when you see them day in and day out at practice they have this belief that just transcends into something tangible that we have been longing for in this program.

While Joker brought a smile to my face saying to heck with it and its time to put the talent of this youth in to get some experience for the Cats. I will only believe that one when I see it! I am hoping that he will take a risk and not make the mistake of going the safe route with who he plays in this game against Kent State in the home opener this Saturday. Here’s what Joker had to say on the Cats final Practice before Kent St.

Joker on Thursdays Practice: “It was another heated day which is good. We had a lot of teams, a lot of special teams also. Trying to get these young guys honed in on their assignments and, again, let them play. That’s what we’ll do.”

Joker on RB Coshik Williams injury status:  “He will not play this weekend and it doesn’t look good, but again it gives us an opportunity to play the young guy.”

Joker on Coshik’s strength as a player: “The guy is a tough guy. Ain’t no doubt about that. The thing we have to have him for: the long haul. I’m not taking these guys for granted by any means, but we need CoShik full speed. He’s not a real big guy, and he needs to be full speed. The guy busts his gut on every play, whether it’s practice or pregame. We’ve just got to make sure we take care of it and make sure we get him to the field healthy.”

Joker on Kent States’ misdirected play against Towson last week. “The first thing I was thinking was why the officials weren’t blowing the whistle. It’s dead. They should’ve been blowing the whistle. They probably were, but everybody was so excited about trying to make blocks and everybody was so excited about trying to make a tackle.”
“The funny thing was watching the coaches’ reactions. You really couldn’t see Kent’s coaches, but you could see Towson State’s coaches like, ‘Don’t tackle him! Don’t tackle him! Don’t tackle him!’ I was around to see the old Viking, Marshall go the wrong way. That was a live play. At least this one wasn’t a live play. But the guy is a really good football player. Number 10 is a really good football player. Just, again, 18- and 22-year-olds sometimes react in strange ways. The thing he did is he reacted quick and he stuck with it.”

Joker on obstacles Cats will face versus Kent State: “They’re physical. They won four out of their last five last year, beat a team handily. They’ve got a lot of confidence. They’ve won five out of the last six games that they’ve played. They’ve seen their league go into top conferences and come out with wins, so they’re excited. There’s two guys on their staff that I’ve been on that other sideline, too, and had a chance to come back here and all the emotions at play. We’ll be feeling some of that, too. That’ll go through their football team also.”

Joker on Pancho Thomas: ““Pacho’s at middle backer behind Avery .  A different guy on game day. I like that. Those guys are different on game day, in sweats running up and down the sideline screaming and yelling, cheering on the defense. You’ve got to play those kind of guys. Those guys like to play. Pancho, you could tell leading up to the game that it was different to him. A lot of things became different the way he approached it the closer we got to game day, so he deserves to play also.”

Joker on the assets of the young talent: “Those young guys will play in different packages. They played a bit last week on the 3rd downs. They are going to get better as the season goes. Next year, we will be sitting here saying they are inexperienced so we have to get them experience now.”

 Joker on what he expects from the Defensive side for the Cats: “I want to see us get lined up, and I want to see us attack the guys in front of us. Get lined up, play physical, get off blocks and make plays. I’ve said our defensive front is good; I still say that. Our defensive front is good enough to win with. They are. We’ve got to give those guys a chance.”

I hope to see some of the unknown faces to this team bring some livelihood back on both sides of the ball and bring back some confidence in the talent that lies in the den of the Wildcats. We have to remember choice, not chance, determines destiny. Too often do teams go through a season not knowing exactly what they want, but feeling sure they don’t have it. There has to come a time when a team must firmly choose the course which they will follow.  Destiny after all is not a matter of chance; it’s a matter of choice.  We have to start creating feasible winning choices to put our team in the direction to move forward and create positive changes! If that means letting the young ones play then let them.

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  1. TheProfessor

    3-9 is still the likely outcome for this team. We have already been given the answer to the first question of the 2012 season, will this team reverse the slide of the past 2 seasons, and the answer is no. Now the questions are, who will be coach in 2013 and will the program improve next year.

    Play the kids.

    1. lee ann herring-olvedo

      It is looking that way to say the least. I think if we continue to develop this core of young talent and simplify a few things the rest of this season to transition them to play then they will improve mid season this season. As for the coaching job if we do seek out a new head coach I would not be opposed to seeing someone like Pat Washington take the reigns of the program,but the next one that we take on needs to play a little bit of more aggresive play book and ability to build the program all the way around!

  2. love SEC F-Ball

    I am not opposed to playing some of the freshmen that you mentioned but I would not waste Towles redshirt on this season. I agree that a lot of Freshmen could play and the focus should be on what they can do not what they can’t do.
    There are certainly a lot of freshmen that play for other teams. But like Prof. said, it probably will not matter who plays – we have a tough schedule – Not sure who we could sneak up on. We could improve dramatically & still only win 3.

    I am tired of hearing about alignment problems & that our defense is too complicated.

    1. lee ann herring-olvedo

      It has yet to be seen if they will name Jalen Whitlow or Towles as the #3 on the depth chart. I do agree who ever is named at that spot the one remaining should be redshirted. Unless you are agoing to give them enough reps early on and through the season don’t waste it. I would like to see Whitlow at #3 because I think just a hybrid athletes and has proved to be very versatile in other packages in different offensive positions! I would have actually like to see him in the wildcat package over newton because I feel he brings more speed and can capitialize in that arena,but Joker has said that Newton will remain the wildcat guy!
      We do have a tough schedule. Heck in schedule in the SEC is tough and especially when we have this time of team. I am come from the sense that since we have a lot of young players in the team give them the experience now and let them develop now instead. Offensively I think us running a more uptempo offense along seemed to be a better look for us in being able to move the ball early on and get us in some good redzone situations. If we can continue to let that work for us we could do some things down the road.
      As for Defense I am right there with you! There were some simple mistakes by vets in missed assignements and not closing gaps thats what did it for us. Like you will see in tommorrows Kent St vs UK preview. I put it plain and simple for the D: ” Hey Mr. Wildcat you see that kid with the ball you have to take him down, close the gaps, cover him and strip that ball if you can!” Thats not complicated! THE SEC is about the D and if you dont have it together right now there needs to be some changes now!

  3. Joshua

    As always, Lee Ann, I love to read your articles. I really enjoy the change of perspective that you bring to UK football. Maybe I’m jaded by the fan base that only understands football in terms of wins and losses, but I appreciate that fact that you seem to understand the intricacies of modern college football.

    I’m also extremely optimistic about the young talent we have on this team. Being a former defensive player, it literally made me sick to watch our LB’s last week. I would much rather have a young player who lines up wrong but is athletic enough to still make a play, rather than a junior that consistantly missed his gap assignment and then missed a tackle down field.

    1. larryvaught

      Exactly what we love having her here for Joshua. Know she will appreciate your kind words

      1. lee ann herring-olvedo

        Thanks Larry! I am just glad I have a good mentor in you to help me share my side of football!

    2. lee ann herring-olvedo

      Thanks Joshua for those kind remarks. I think being on this side of a program has given me a different direction when it comes to covering football especially at UK. Having been so involved behind the scenes of my college football program I have none what it feels to be on the winning and losing side of games and both you pay a price for dearly. Like I said unfortunatley most of teh BBN dont get to see what we see being the media on the practice fields. But having watched football film from HS/College teams a great deal of my life I have a niche for knowing teams and player tendency and we have it. Now we just need it to carry over on gameday because thats what people remember.

      I think vets anchor and lay the foundation for a team especially in the SEC they bring the mental and leadership to the game on both side of the ball. But at the same time most of them will leave soon and its the young guys who stay behind in the end. So why not get a core of them some experience and I dont mean in the 4th quarter with a min to go either. These kids dont have experience because they don’t give them any experience when there is oppurtunity to.

      Our team needs to get better on both side of the ball which sometimes means we need to try something fresh which usually comes from the young players who have not adapted into one set playing style.

      I kept hearing how the Defense was the last of our worries and we need to put more worrying into the offense. However, it was sad to see the simple mistakes made by returners on the D. Even then like you said they just let it go instead of trying to still make something out of nothing. You don’t always get it right but doesnt mean you cant look for another way to follow through!


    Why not play them? They didn’t come to UK to sit, they could have done that at Bama, FL, GA, etc. I think (heard/watched on the Joker show last year) that these guys come to UK because they want to play in the SEC. That means two things to me, one they truly wanted to play in the SEC and they didn’t get recruited by any of the “big boys” in the SEC.


    1. lee ann herring-olvedo

      Exactly, get the best talent out there if you want them to get some experience there is no better time than now to let them. The young players make up our core this is who we have to develop early on if we have any chance of change and growth in this program. We can’t get any worse than we were so if what hasnt worked needs to be fixed. We can’t just make execuses for them we need fix them. Joker as a coach for me plays to conservative. He has shared how they have had a lot of young players who could play early on but of course there is a hestiation with him to play them bec of the inexperience. You need to take risk when your programs are in this state thats the only way you can know what you have! Sometimes throwing people into the gauntlet they will come out on top and learning to swim!

  5. shinny

    From all we have read, we now want to see, SWEAT let’s see him in action, Collins looks good but we need to see more of him,MOBLEY would love to see him carry the ball, we know after seeing 3 years of # 4 he fumbles,Henderson defense needs all the help they can get,Rancifer at LB lets see what he can do,Cunningham 6’4 reciever,Huguenin to help defense at DE,let’s see Collins at “Wildcat” former HS QB and FAST.
    I for one enjoy seeing you in print Lee Ann keep it coming. GBB

    1. lee ann herring-olvedo

      Exactly! Most of these names are foreign to those outside of Cats Football. But these are the kids we need to bring in the young fresh talent. Our program and playbook clearly are capitializing on talent or on teh score board for that matter so clearly thats a red flag we need to go another direction. Like I said just even in playing the uptempo offense that was a good step for the offense. Doing some more exotic plays and firing up the playbook is not bad when you have the young guys it fires them up more! Of course these kids come from HS ball or sitting on the sidelines and lack experience but as I have said this CATS team has nothing to lose literally by trying new things with the young players!

    2. larryvaught

      I am with you Shinny. Show me sweat, legree, whitlow, taylor, mobley. Heck I want to see Bookie

      1. lee ann herring-olvedo

        I agree Larry Would love to see Bookie and what he can do at WR! I really was hoping to get Whitlow as are wildcat guy but Jokers admant it will be Newton!

  6. Andrew George

    I love Kentucky . From it’s music to literature and bourbon to back roads . And even basketball. But what I do so enjoy is writing that makes subject matter emotionally appealing . We could use writing like this about the Rebels. HottyToddy ! And go Big Blue…

  7. Andy

    SPeaking of Bookie, whats going on with him? No mention of him cracking the starting line up. Lets also make use of Mobley and Taylor and Whitlow. These kids are too athletic to be not playing somewhere in the rotation.

    1. Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo

      Yeah there has not been really much buzz on Bookie or mention for that matter this Fall camp which suprised me from the noise he made during his recruitment. But yes I really hope Joker will keep his word and play the young kids and not be afraid of there youth! These kids really are to athletics to just sit around and not utilize there abilities to our advantage after all isnt that why we recruit these kids. Our team is young in depth so I dont see what the problem is in playing them to get them to fit into and strengthen when we have. I hate to say it but If we lose this game I don’t see Joker staying around next season. Sometimes you have to start fresh and clean house not just with players but with staff. All around teh SEC we got young players and true freshman starting so why not us too!

    2. larryvaught

      Cobbins and Whitlow have disappeared from conversations and playing field


    IT WAS GREAT seeing the FR make plays out there.

    Not to mention the SERIOUS hit’s the Cats were putting on Kent State!!!

    Neloms hit on #1 for State…WOW!!! Blaylocks hit on the QB in the 4th Qtr…OUCH!

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