Everyone knows football is far from a one man show. The biggest team sport in the world requires 11 individuals working together simultaneously to produce a single outcome. No other sport requires such unity among so many individuals. The same can be said for football coaching staffs. Coordinators, position coaches and head coaches must be on the same page for every practice, every day and every game. Teamwork applies to the coaching staff as well as the players.
There are those who hold the spotlight, gather all the media attention and garner all the recognition. Star players and head coaches are many times among those constantly on the front page of the newspaper. They get all the credit for success and all the blame for failures. Vindication comes in many forms and no one got a bigger dose of vindication than Rich Brooks on Saturday. The often booed Brooks has taken Kentucky to football heights it has not known since the mid-50’s. The biggest win in Kentucky football history came in 3 overtimes and ended with of all things a defensive stop. The upset of #1 ranked power LSU gave Brooks the traditional Gatorade shower and plenty of vindication. Thankfully the team waited till the game was officially over this time for the Gatorade shower.
Saturday night Brooks was in the midst of celebration with a soaked Kentucky polo. Kentucky football needed more than one cooler of Gatorade on Saturday night. The greatest win in school history and the recent successes belong to more than Rich Brooks.
Gatorade showers for the following members of the Kentucky Football coaching staff:
Joker Phillips– Creative play-calling throughout the year has kept SEC defenses off balance. Phillips more than likely landed a quality head coaching job on Saturday, if he wants it. Phillips along with the other offensive coaches have developed talent and depth at Kentucky’s skill positions. Phillips has been the center piece in developing talent at the skill positions. Woodson was the most heralded of the big 4 (Woodson, Burton, Tamme, Little) on offense. Burton, Little and Tamme were 3-star recruits. Phillips and staff have turned 3-star recruits into first team SEC caliber players. But perhaps their best coaching job has been with a patch-work offensive line. What was once considered the question mark of the football team has not become its strength but is not costing Kentucky football games either. They’ve done more than enough to give the talented skill players time to operate. Having talent doesn’t always equal offensive production, just ask Florida State or Miami. The greatest coaches put their best players in situations to succeed and Phillips has done just that. Kentucky can spread defenses out by utilizing a mobile tight end like Jacob Tamme, speedy wide receivers and the arm of Woodson. An offense once known for making the wrong play at the wrong time has become an unstoppable force in the SEC and no one deserves more credit for that than Joker Phillips.
Randy Sanders– Stagnant and predictable play calling at Tennessee got Sanders the axe as offensive coordinator. Kentucky did not hesitate to bring Sanders in as quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator. Sanders talent has always been quarterbacks. An art he learned from one of the best, David Cutcliffe. Woodson’s improvement under Sanders has been tremendous. Once considered a wasted talent Woodson with the help of Sanders has transformed himself into a possible top-10 pick. There are still one or two quirks in his throwing motion but the guy is a legitimate Heisman candidate. Kentucky not only landed a quarterbacks coach they also got someone with 7 years of coordinating experience in the SEC. Most quarterbacks coaches do not have near the experience Sanders does which goes along way not only on game day but in the film room as well. Sanders has been a vital tool in the growth of not only Andre Woodson but the entire Kentucky offense.
Jimmy Heggins– Heggins has spent his time at Kentucky working with less talent than he did at Florida State. Yet he has managed to produce a more productive group than in his last 3 years with Florida State. Not all of the blame for Florida States offensive woes fell to Heggins just like all the Kentucky offensive successes do not belong to him either. The recent offensive success belongs in part to Heggins and his offensive line group. What was the biggest concern in pre-season has become a unit that is solid enough to give Kentucky time to operate. Saturday the offensive line gave up no sacks and was able to get their hands on LSU’s front four. Phillips’ creative play calling has the offensive line playing to its strengths. Heggins has the big boys up front working together to successful limit some of the nation’s best defensive fronts.
Chuck Smith– The high school coaching guru made the jump to college football in 2005 as linebackers coach at Kentucky. He has steadily turned the line-backing unit into one worthy of SEC contention. It was never more prevalent than in the game on Saturday. Time after time linebackers made tackles in the open field, and stops at the line of scrimmage. Their foot work and tackling technique were outstanding all game long and all year. Consider this, only Johnny Williams and Sam Maxwell were actually recruited as linebackers. The other 4 of the top 6 linebackers on the depth chart were either defensive linemen or defensive backs. Only Micah Johnson was higher than a 2-star recruit. Smith has worked wonders in his first two years with what in the SEC is considered an under-talented group. Braxton Kelly’s plug the hole form tackle of Charles Scott on the final play Saturday is a microcosm of what Smith has brought to the line-backing group.
The football year doesn’t get any easier for the #8th ranked Wildcats. Florida comes to town on Saturday and College Gameday will be there. When you see Rich Brooks and Andre Woodson during post game interviews, win or lose, remember the guys that go without the Gatorade showers. You can probably find them in the office getting ready for next week.