I did not get film on Kentucky. My apologies to Kentucky fans and anyone who wanted to hear from Joker Phillips and not just read. On the other hand, just play a tape of anything Kentucky head coaches have said over the last several years, and you'll get an idea of what Phillips said this week in Birmingham.
Sure, there were some different questions from the usual -- reporters wanting to ask about Rick Minter's new job as defensive coordinator and the like -- but one of the most salient questions remained from years gone by. Is Kentucky ever going to win the SEC East?
In a way, South Carolina's championship from last year should give the Wildcats hope. But in a way, it's also discouraging. The Gamecocks became the first team to break through the establish superpowers in the division since Georgia did so (and then became a superpower itself) in 2002. And while Georgia had to climb over two teams and South Carolina had to break a three-way stranglehold (though at least two of those teams were worse than mediocre last year), Kentucky has to climb over a whopping four teams that have traditionally been ranked ahead of them to go to Atlanta.
So what's a program to do? In the formulation of Kentucky's marketing department, "Rise." I'll let Phillips explain.
In order for this program to continue to rise we have got to do the things that are necessary for it to rise. "Rise" meaning not just going to bowl games, but being able to contend for championships in this league.
The latest setback to Kentucky is its latest bowl, an embarrassing loss to a Pittsburgh team that didn't even know who would coach it in the bowl until a few days before the game. Meanwhile, South Carolina was showing that winning the division championship for the first time can be an intimidating things, as the Gamecocks collapsed in the SEC title bout. But the Gamecocks' season didn't go unnoticed in Lexington, linebacker Danny Trevathan said.
Last year we were thinking, 'Why not us?' The division was wide open and we beat South Carolina. We just didn't do the things off the field to take care of business. We didn't come in extra, and do so stuff like that.
Kentucky looks like it needs more than a few extra weight-lifting sessions to improve its lot. Still, Phillips returned to the script that Wildcat coaches have been reading from for years now.
How tough is it for us to get over the wall? I mean, I think we're very, very close. We're very close. We've been competing in this league for the last six, seven years where we have been in a lot of games, lost a lot of close games. The thing that's going to get us over the hump is being the most disciplined team, being the most physical team, and also having mental toughness, the things we talked about earlier.
If they can do that, maybe Phillips can read from a new script next year. If for no other reason than the dramatically different questions he will have to answer.