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Joker Phillips Reborn

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Joker Phillips goes from one challenge (reviving Kentucky football) to another (propping up a group of Florida receivers that has under-performed since Percy Harvin). Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
Joker Phillips goes from one challenge (reviving Kentucky football) to another (propping up a group of Florida receivers that has under-performed since Percy Harvin). Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Joker Phillips was vetted and groomed to be the answer at Kentucky. He was supposed to lead them out of the SEC cellar and into the Sugar Bowl. After going 13-24 during his three seasons in Lexington, Big Blue Nation changed its mind. Kentucky let Joker go and he was quickly snapped up to be a lead recruiter and wide receivers coach for the Florida Gators.

Phillips takes over a struggling unit. Last season, the most productive wide receiver was Quinton Dunbar. Dunbar caught 36 passes for only 383 yards. The Gators have been looking for a true No. 1 receiver since the departure of Percy Harvin. Fans have been frustrated by the tantalizing, yet unreached potential of wide receiver recruits. Will Muschamp believes that Phillips can develop these receivers and foster production at that position.

Dunbar and sophomore Latroy Pittman are currently poised to start this season. Fans around the country are hoping that Phillips will be able to crack the code of Andre Debose. Last season, Muschamp was quoted as searching for the way to “unlock” Debose in practice. Phillips’ success will be judged on the production of this unit, and most likely, the production of these three players.

The odds are against Phillips. The offensive scheme will remain run-oriented, and the success of the receivers is dependent on the growth of quarterback Jeff Driskel. Also, Florida doesn’t have any highly-touted receiver recruits that will be ready for the fall. Unless a freshman like Demarcus Robinson emerges right away, the success of the Gators’ offense hinges on the players already in the locker room. This puts a lot of pressure on Phillips to develop this group into a formidable unit.

The challenge of turning four- and five-star recruits into productive players is difficult, but it should be an easy task to a man that tried to lift Kentucky into SEC competition. If the Gators’ receivers manage to increase production and show development, the media should be quick to praise Phillips. Phillips is in a tough situation without much outside support, but this is the life of many position coaches throughout the country.