From the other side: Kentucky

9 09 2010

Longtime Kentucky beat writer and columnist John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader was kind enough to answer a few questions surrounding this weekend’s Western Kentucky-Kentucky football game.

Thanks for John for taking some time out for us:

1) What’s the initial fan reception been like for Joker Phillips since his promotion became official?

A significant segment of the fan base was unhappy with the performance of the offense the last couple of years, so being the offensive coordinator, Joker hasn’t received much of a honeymoon. But I think the fans have been pleased
with some of his moves – bringing in Mike Summers, Tee Martin, David Turner and Greg Nord as assistant coaches, for example. They’ve also been encouraged by Joker’s emphasis on recruiting. UK’s collection of 2011 commitments is
currently ranked 25th by ESPN. That’s taken some of the heat off. So has beating Louisville.

2) What’s the realistic potential for Kentucky in this year’s SEC?

For Kentucky to move up, some traditional powers have to slip down. That seems to be happening with Tennessee, and possibly Georgia. Florida is still Florida. But Tennessee has had so much turmoil and turnover, you have to think the Vols are going to have a tough season. Georgia has an unproven quarterback and many questions on defense. That could help Kentucky climb a rung or two on the ladder. But to do that, it has to beat South Carolina.

3) Kentucky’s been to four straight bowls, but has yet to really crack into the upper-echelon of the SEC – are fans getting antsy at all?

That’s the next step, and Phillips has made no bones about it. His “Operation Win” campaign and his emphasis on a more physical training camp are focused toward the program taking that next step. I think they have sort of hit a plateau with the fans as far as bowl games. A fourth trip to the Music City Bowl probably would not over to well with the Big Blue Nation.

4) Are UK fans excited or indifferent about having a four-year series with WKU?

I think the UK alumni in the western part of the state are thrilled. The fact that two of the games are being played in Nashville would be more enticing had not UK already played three bowl games there recently, plus the fact it plays at Vanderbilt every year. There has also been increased grumbling about the non-conference schedule. That is not Western’s fault, but some Kentucky fans would like to see the level of the non-conference slate be bumped up a bit.

5) What’s your score prediction for Saturday?

Kentucky 45, Western Kentucky 10

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