GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators have a new receivers coach and he is someone familiar with the Southeastern Conference and the Florida program.
Florida coach Will Muschamp announced Monday that former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips is joining his staff as receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. Phillips will begin work at UF on Friday.
“We are excited to have Joker join our staff,” said Muschamp. “His background as a head coach and the number of years he has coached wide receivers will be a tremendous asset to our coaching staff and players. Joker is obviously very familiar with the Southeastern Conference and has always done a great job in recruiting.
“Obviously I had a number of experiences with Joker both on and off the field, as our paths have crossed often, but I’ve been really impressed with Joker Phillips as a man during this hiring process.”
Phillips was a longtime receivers coach before taking over as head coach at Kentucky in 2010. In three seasons in charge of the Wildcats’ program, Phillips had a 13-24 record.
He coached his final game on Nov. 26, against Tennessee. Kentucky’s biggest win in Phillips’ final season came in early September when the Wildcats dealt Kent State its only loss of the regular season.
Phillips is energized to join Florida’s staff and work with a team that finished the regular season 11-1 in Muschamp’s second season.
“I’m thrilled to become part of the Gator family,” said Phillips. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compete and win at the highest level. I believe in Coach Muschamp’s philosophy and what he has done in his short time here at Florida is phenomenal.
“I’m looking forward to contributing to the long-term vision that he has for this program. In addition, it will be very rewarding to be involved in the hands-on development of the players I will coach.”
The 49-year-old Phillips made history in January 2010 when he became only the second African-American to be named head coach at an SEC school. He became the first coach in school history to take the Wildcats to a bowl game in his first season and in his second season Phillips led the Wildcats to a 10-7 win over Tennessee despite using receiver Matt Roark at quarterback because of injuries.
The victory snapped Kentucky’s 26-game losing streak to the Vols. The victory over Tennessee came soon after Kentucky defeated South Carolina for the first time in 18 attempts.
Phillips played at Kentucky from 1981-84 and started his coaching career as a graduate assistant there in 1989. He became the school’s recruiting coordinator in 1990 and later served as the Wildcats’ receivers coach from 1991-96.
After stops at Cincinnati, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina from 1997-2002, Phillips returned to his alma mater as recruiting coordinator/receivers coach in 2003.
He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2005 and head coach of the offense in 2009 before replacing Rich Brooks as head coach in 2010. In his time as offensive coordinator, Phillips oversaw the highest-scoring team in school history in 2007.
The Wildcats started the season 6-1, including a 43-37 overtime win against LSU. Kentucky capped an 8-5 season with a 35-28 win over Florida State in the Music City Bowl that season.
The receiving corps is an area Muschamp said the Gators need to improve in. Tight end Jordan Reed was the Gators’ leading receiver this season with 44 catches for 552 yards.
Among the wide receivers, Quinton Dunbar led the way with 31 catches for 306 yards and four touchdowns. Frankie Hammond Jr. had 20 catches for 273 yards while Andre Debose, expected to be a factor at the start of the season, finished with just two receptions for 11 yards in eight games. Overall, wide receivers accounted for 34.7 percent (58 of 167) of the team’s receptions.