Most Recent Posts
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- Calipari says Cats will press more, foul more, bump and grind, hip-check next season
- Caldwell County sophomore Elijah Sindelar special QB but also has big-time baseball options
- Stoops believes he has special understanding of high school coaches
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky is going to have a lot of challenging games in Mark Stoops’ first season, but there will be no more intriguing game than the season opener in Nashville against Western Kentucky and new coach Bobby Petrino.
The Hilltoppers will be trying to beat UK for a second straight season — a huge no-no for a SEC team. And Petrino will be trying to make a statement immediately that Kentucky and other schools made a mistake by not hiring him.
Petrino named his coaching staff this week and the assistants have a wealth of football experience, both as players and as coaches. Combined, the seven assistants have over 100 years of combined collegiate coaching experience, which include coaching stints at schools such as Arkansas, Baylor, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Marshall, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. Together, the seven announced assistants have coached in a combined 14 bowl games, including four BCS bowl games.
By LARRY VAUGHT
LOUISVILLE — Kentucky coach Joker Phillips had a passionate plea for UK football fans.
“Get behind this team. You don’t have to get behind me. It’s the wrong thing for a coach to sell himself and what he does. Coaches change (jobs) on their own or don’t win. Coaches retire. You are not about to see me selling me. I am selling you the fans (in recruiting). This a great state, great university. I tell that to players when they come here,” said Phillips during an appearance at the Louisville Quarterback Club.
“Get behind them. Don’t get behind me. When this thing is all over for me, I will be one of you and will be behind this thing. Get behind this team. They deserve that.”
Phillips also tactfully explained to those questioning the coaching staff changes he’s had in his two years why that is not a bad thing and how receivers coach Pat Washington and secondary coach Mike Cassity are valuable additions to his third UK team.
“I learned a lot from (former assistant coach) Bill Glaser (who was in the audience). I learned not to be afraid to speak up when I was working under him at Kentucky,” Phillips said. “I like change. I am not afraid of change. I want staff changes every two years. I am open to new ideas. The same thing year after year is not always good. I want to be open to new ideas and things and tell our coaches that.
“If you have change, I see that as a good. Mike Cassity wanted to be back here. He’s from Kentucky, played at Kentucky. He’s put 35 guys into the NFL. I am glad to have him back coaching the right team in this state (after previously coaching at Louisville). Pat Washington has coached in this league for 13 years and played in this league. He coached and recruited Tee Martin (at Tennessee). When Tee left (for USC), why not go get him.”
Phillips called the Southeastern Conference a “grown man’s league” and noted that is why it was encouraging to view UK’s defensive line as the team’s strength based on the way the returning players performed the second half of last season.
“Mister Cobble is a Myron Pryor, Corey Peters (two former Cats now playing in the NFL). The biggest adjustment for college kids in athletics is being able to go from freshmen to sophomores. Once they get to their sophomore year, you can see things go uphill. He had a problem (academically) getting to be a sophomore. He didn’t care of himself academically. Now he is way ahead academically and I think he will get his degree next year,” Phillips said of his defensive tackle.
“Him and Donte Rumph, who we signed three times … he ought to be good. He is a guy coming into his own, too. Danny (Trevathan) made a lot of tackles last year and people said our defensive line was not very good. But the defensive line did not let guys get on the linebackers and Danny made plays because of the guys up front.
“End Collins Ukwu is a self-made guy. He’s a first generation football player from Nigeria. He has not grown up in the game. The most natural guy at the position is Farrington Hugeunin, a guy we redshirted last year. He has the most natural ability. He is a more natural defensive end. Those guys are why I think the defensive line will be the strength of our team.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky secondary coach Mike Cassity liked the enthusiasm he saw from the Wildcats during his first spring practice and today talks about that enthusiasm as well as UK’s current recruiting.
Question: When a team has a lot of young talent, can that talent and enthusiasm overcome a lack of experience in the SEC?
Cassity: “I am not going to step around that. I think there is no substitute for experience at all. But then again you turn around and you had three freshmen and two sophomore starters win the national (basketball) championship (at Kentucky). I know they are great players and all those things, but I think it is mindset when you have a bunch of new guys. They are not used to the old way or whatever. This is the way. Their eyes are big and they are eager. I noticed that this spring. I was embraced by the players here. I didn’t have to feel my way around at all. I jumped right in and started coaching. Their are only two coaches that have been at the University of Kentucky longer than I have, and that’s Joker and (special teams/tight end coach Greg) Nord.
“I tell players I was a two-sport letterman here (in football and wrestling). I don’t need to convince them of creditability. They know where I have been and who I have coached. It’s just a matter that I had to earn their respect and hopefully I did that this spring.”
Question: Can a young team use low expectations like there are for this team among fans and media members as motivation during the summer or can that cause a young team to doubt itself?
Cassity: “I don’t think so. I think players follow the lead of their coaches. If coaches are positive and optimistic and on the upbeat, then players follow coaches. Everybody says you have to have great leadership on a team, and that’s true, but it starts with the coaching staff. It’s easy the first day of two-a-days to go out there with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, but day five, six or seven gets harder. But our staff will be the same way day seven as they were day one because I have worked with a lot of them. I have more commonality with this staff than any staff I have been a part of.
“David Armstrong, our recruiting guy, played for me at Western. (Equipment manager Tom) Kalinowski was here when I was a player. (Linebacker coach) Chuck Smith played for me. Joker played for me. Nord did. (Offensive line coach Mike) Summers, (defensive coordinator Rick) Minter. All those guys are good. I know this that there were a lot of people, friends, people that I played with and wrestled with and everything that welcomed me back. I am not going to disappoint them.”
Question: How important is June for recruiting with the emphasis placed on getting players to attend camp on campus?
Cassity: “We are in the middle of the evaluation process right now going out nationwide and looking at juniors. I think it is very important to target the right guys to recruit next year. You evaluate during spring football in Florida, Georgia and that’s a tremendous advantage getting to watch those guys. Then as far as us studying film as a staff … and that’s another thing that Joker really does. We sit in there and the offensive coaches watch the defensive players and the defensive coaches watch offensive players so we know what we are looking for. It’s easy if the running backs coach just takes all the running backs and ranks them, but we do not do it that way. We do it staff-wise, and that’s a real positive. It takes a little more time, but it is very thorough. It helps me knowing what our running backs coach and offensive line coach are looking for and helps them know what I am looking for in a cornerback and safety. Without stepping on anyone’s feelings, if one of the coaches is real proud about this defensive back I will say, ‘He doesn’t have quite the foot quickness. Watch his hips? Does he play basketball?’”
Question: Since Highlands quarterback Patrick Towles committed by this time last year and was the bellcow for the 2012 recruiting class, do you need more than the one verbal commitment you have now?
Cassity: “I think that is so overrated. Granted, there are some great players who commit early, and I think that is super. But near the end of recruiting (last year) we wished we had another couple of scholarships. Those players popped up that just land in your lap for whatever reasons. You look at two or three of the last guys we signed were as good as anybody. It is sad when you have to turn away some great players because you are full, and that has happened.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky assistant football coach Mike Cassity played for Kentucky about 40 years ago and knows the program as a player, coach and coaching rival. Today he shares insights on the perception of UK football.
Question: Over the course of over 40 years since you came to Kentucky as a player, has the perception of Kentucky football dramatically changed or not?
Cassity: “You look at going to five straight bowl games as progress certainly. I have been away for 30 years, but as I was leaving you look at a 10-1 team (in 1977) and been eight-win seasons. Has there been a national championship in the last 40 years? No. But I have been around a bunch of programs that have all the pieces in place. We have all the pieces in place, so why not us (winning a national championship). That’s my attitude.”
Question: Was that the same belief you had when you signed to play for Kentucky?
Cassity: “I think times have changed so much. Our facilities — and I have been part of 14 different programs — are as good as you need. I always tell players you are always going to find a stadium that is larger or a weight room that is bigger, but it is not about that. It is about the coaches. The one thing I will say about Joker is that he has assembled a staff of guys that want to be there. I have been arounds staffs where guys are always on the phone trying to find the next job. There are a bunch of good ball coaches right now at the University of Kentucky.”
Question: What was the perception of Kentucky football while you were away for over 30 years coaching at other schools and was that different from what your perception would be now that you are back?
Cassity: “No. I go back to when coach Curry and coach Claiborne and they got the indoor facility, the new dorms and the Nutter Center. It just keeps going and going. As I talked to prospect this winter, I told them they are not going to find a more exciting atmosphere than when you walk out of tunnel (at Commonwealth Stadium) at the University of Kentucky and it has always been that way. I will say this and that’s winning will take care of everything. The fans here are the same fans that support basketball only magnified by three the numbers (for football). We have great fans.”
Question: Does it help in recruiting that you played at Kentucky?
Cassity: “I tell players I have been in every conference (coaching) except the Pac-10. I have been a coordinator in every conference except the Pac-10. When I had an opportunity to come back to the SEC, it was done. Fortunately it was at the school I played at. Again, I know all the pieces are there. It is our job to put a great product on the field and we will do that.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky secondary coach Mike Cassity was the Kentucky High School Football Coaches Clinic at Centre College in Danville last weekend and I got a chance to spend about 15 minutes with him.
Since I have known him for over 40 years â€” we were students at UK at the same time and lived on the same dorm floor â€” I respect his candor. That’s why I asked him what he felt were the best pieces that the Kentucky football program has to work with, and I’ll admit his answer surprised me a bit.
â€œIâ€ˆthink it starts with the head coach and the staff. You just go down each coach and what he has done and where he has been and the ability to recruit. We have got a very good staff. So much of todayâ€™s football is staff chemistry. I think Joker has done a great job of assembling coaches that you donâ€™t necessarily have to be yes men to each other,” Cassity said.
“Everybody can state their opinion and then once you leave the room everybody is on the same page and nobody is second guessing anybody. I have seen that happen. The great programs, great staffs Iâ€ˆhave been part of it is everybody rowing in the same direction.â€ˆI think that is where it starts.â€
By LARRY VAUGHT
Mike Cassity probably had never backed down from anyone based on how I saw him play on the field at Kentucky and from what I got to know of him off the field since we were at Kentucky a few years together. That’s why it didn’t surprise me Thursday night when UK’s new defensive backs coach had a friendly challenge for new receivers coach Pat Washington.
â€œI want to talk noise to PatÂ and the receivers,â€ Cassity said. â€œI want it to be competitive every day because if our guys can cover our receivers then weâ€™ll match up well with the other teamâ€™s we play.â€
Or they will if Washington can get UK’s receivers to be more productive than they were in 2011 and he certainly seemed to believe he will do so. Washington coached with UK offensive coordinator from 1995-2005 at Tennessee, including the 1998 national championship season. It was Sanders who first called Washington when it became obvious that Tee Martin, UT’s starting quarterback on the national title team and UK’s receivers coach the last two years, likely was leaving for Southern California.
â€œI was surprised he went to California. Being a southern boy from Mobile, Ala., it shocked me. But he’s on the rise,” Washington said. â€œWeâ€™re sort of raw at receiver, but at the same time I think we have enough talent to be successful. I think with (Joker Phillips) here, the skyâ€™s the limit. We just have to go get players like coach C (John Calipari) has in basketball. That’s howÂ you win.”
Or bring the “noise” that Cassity wants.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Former University of Kentucky defensive back Mike Cassity says there is â€œnot much I can sayâ€ about rumors that he will be joining Joker Phillipsâ€™ coaching staff at UK even though The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, W.Va., has also reported his hiring.
Cassity has been the secondary coach at Marshall the lat two years, including 2009 when current UK defensive coordinator Rick Minter was Marshallâ€™s defensive coordinator. Cassity was also defensive coordinator at Cincinnati in 1994 when Minter was the head coach there.
â€œOne of the main reasons I came to Marshall was to work with him,â€ said Cassity, a safety at Kentucky who graduated in 1976 with a degree in physical education. â€œWe had a great working relationship. He is a very good ball coach. Rick and I work well together. We have the same coaching philosophy, know the same terminology. He is still doing the same things. We did a lot of his defense obviously when I was his coordinator at Cincinnati. He is just an excellent coach.â€
Cassity, who had current UKâ€ˆtight ends coach Greg Nord as a Kentucky teammate, watched the Wildcats beat Mississippi last season during an open date for Marshall.
â€œBeing a typical college fan, I just watched the game but I could see the guys really bought into what Rick brings to the table,â€ Cassity, who was Southeastern Conference wrestling runner-up in the 190-pound division, said.
Cassity has an extensive coaching resume. He has 34 years of coaching experience, including seven as a defensive coordinator. He has coached 34 players who have gone on to play in the NFL.
He was defensive coordinator at Louisville from 2004-2007 and had a defense ranked among the nationâ€™s top 40 in total defense each season. His 2006 team ranked 17th in the country in scoring defense and in 2005 the Cards ranked 21st in rushing defense and 23rd in scoring defense. In 2005, Louisville was 15th nationally in total defense and he was recognized as one of the nationâ€™s top 25 recruiters the same season.
Cassity was defensive coordinator at Illinois for three seasons, including in 2001 when the Illini won the Big Ten championship. He was co-coordinator at Oklahoma State with Rob Ryan in 1999 and was the defensive coordinator at Baylor in 1997-98.Â He has been defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech (1992-93), East Carolina (1990-91), Northeast Louisiana (1989) and Western Kentucky (1983-88).
He was also the secondary at Wisconsin in 1995-96, Morehead State in 1982 and Kentucky in 1979-81. Cassity, a Fort Campbell native, started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Kentucky and then coached at Paducah Tilghman High School. He spent six months coaching at Fern Creek High School in Louisville after leaving UofL.
â€œWhen they put me in the grave, I might be the only coach with the distinction of playing at Ft. Campbell, playing at Kentucky, coaching at Kentucky and also coaching at Western Kentucky, Morehead, Louisville, Paducah Tilghman and Morehead.
â€œThe greatest thing about coaching is that each and every day you wake up excited to go to work. There a lot of people who make more money than coaches who hate their jobs. Each day is a new challenge. The longer I have been in college coaching, the more exciting it is. I am very energized each day to go to work and that is important as a coach.â€
Cassity says heâ€™s not dramatically changed his coaching style. He says heâ€™s learned from various coaches from former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez to Ryan at Oklahoma State.
â€œI have been around good coaches. When I was at Oklahoma State, I would go into home and tell mothers of defensive backs that somebody would make (ESPN) SportsCenter each game because our corners are going to press up and play tight coverage. Iâ€™ve always had an aggressive mentality,â€ Cassity said. â€œAt Louisville, we always had some good defenses. I have not changed that approach to coaching.â€
Heâ€™s been a bit surprised by the reaction to reports that he is headed to Kentucky to fill the vacancy created when Steve Brown was not rehired as the secondary coach.
â€œI still have a lot of friends in the Lexington area. However, I never expected all the phone calls and texts when it came out that Iâ€ˆmight be headed back to Lexington. I heard from people I have not heard from in years,â€ Cassity said.
Cassity says if he does get hired at Kentucky, heâ€™s not worried about speculation that Kentucky must show dramatic improvement from the 11-14 mark Phillips has compiled the last two years to avoid a head coaching change after the 2012 season.
â€œEvery year is a tough year in college coaching,â€ Cassity said. â€œThere are no easy games no matter where you are. But every game is winnable, too.
â€œI just hope this thing works out well. But all I know today is that Iâ€ˆam going to work at Marshall because Iâ€ˆhave not been hired at Kentucky.â€