LEXINGTON — He’s a college basketball analyst, but he’s a college football fan. So while Dick Vitale knows Kentucky fans were bitterly disappointed with UK’s overtime loss to Western Kentucky, he was also thrilled for WKU coach Willie Taggart because he played “where I lived” in Florida.
“He has kids from Bradenton, Fla. He knows how good football is in this area,” said Vitale, who was in Lexington last Friday speaking to those attending the John Calipari Fantasy Experience. “Manatee High School is No. 1 in the USA Today football poll. He has a couple of kids from there on his team. He has some others from the same city.
“Willie is wired with the right people. He is a rising star in coaching.¿It’s going to be tough for Western to keep him there because he’s such a good coach and wired so well in recruiting. I know it was a big loss for Kentucky, but what a win for Willie Taggart.”
However, it was also a big blow for Kentucky coach Joker Phillips. He was asked on the Southeastern Conference teleconference Wednesday why it had been so hard for UK¿football to sustain success.
“It’s hard to explain why. One thing we need to have is consistency in recruiting, player development. All those type things,” Phillips said. “There have been numerous coaches since I¿have been here and the thing we need to have is consistency.”
Would recruiting more in Florida help, something UK now seems determined to do?
“It’s not a tough place (to recruit). The thing is we haven’t focused on Florida as much,” Phillips said. “I took over three years ago (as head coach) and Florida was always an area I recruited. We are now getting into Florida a little bit more,” Phillips said.
“We have got five commitments from Florida now (in the 2013 recruiting class) and will continue to recruit there. It’s heavily populated with players. It is a state we must recruit to be successful.”
Redshirt likely: Sophomore Josh Clemons, UK’s leading rusher last year when he injured his knee midway of the season, likely will be redshirted.
“Josh is again week to week and not getting any better,” Phillips said. “The further along we get, we will have to make a decision about whether to redshirt him.”
Phillips indicated later that Clemons “likely” would be redshirted because of the knee failing to respond since he’s already missed four games and is not close to being ready to play again.
He said it is the “same” with sophomore safety Glen Faulkner, who injured an ankle in the preseason. Phillips said he will be out another two to three weeks.
“Is that enough time to get him ready and use up a year of eligibility,” Phillips said.
Clemons and Faulkner were two of the top players in UK’s 2011 recruiting class. Faulkner did not get cleared to play academically until just before preseason practice opened and then played sparingly last year.
Streaking: Two years ago Phillips and UK¿ended losing streaks against Steve Spurrier and South Carolina.
Last year the Cats ended the nation’s longest single-team losing streak to Tennessee.
Now UK¿has a chance to do the same at Florida Saturday. The Cats’ last win over Florida was 10-3 in 1986.
Philips said he has not mentioned the losing streak to his team.
“Why bring those things up. They hear enough outside of here. We try to prepare and play as well as we can,” Phillips said. “A lot of those guys have not been part of those (losses). We are such a young team with first and second year players. The only games they realize are the one a couple played in last year and one the true freshmen are about to play in. We not mention it. Our approach is to stay nothing and prepare to play the best we can.”
Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter said UK’s players also likely have recovered mentally from the overtime loss to Western Kentucky last week better than the coaches have.
“I think coaches drool over the past more than players. I think by midnight, probably the players are moving on. It’s what we try to encourage them to do,” Minter said. “You want them to hurt when you lose because you invest everything you have in the game, but by the same token when the sun comes up the next day, you have to put it behind you, move on and get ready for the next week.”