July 12, 2012

Five questions: Kentucky

In cooperation with the other SEC sites on Rivals.com, we take a look at five questions facing each team as preseason practice approaches. The series continues today with a report on the Kentucky Wildcats from CatsIllustrated.com's Ben Jones.

Years like 2011 were supposed to be a thing of the past for the Kentucky football program. After spending decades mired in mediocrity - or worse - the Wildcats appeared to have turned a corner not too long ago. Rich Brooks retired after the 2009 season, handing the reins to Joker Phillips, a head-coach-in-waiting and a beloved former player expected to keep the team moving in the right direction.

Phillips steered the program to its fifth-straight bowl game in 2010, the first time in history the Wildcats had put together such a streak. But they looked listless in a loss to Pittsburgh to finish the year 6-7, and things only got worse in Phillips' second year.

The bowl streak ended. So did Kentucky's four-year winning streak over archrival Louisville. There was a glimmer of hope at the end, when the Wildcats' ended a 26-year losing streak to Tennessee while playing without their quarterback, but the fan base is fast becoming restless.

Athletic director Mitch Barnhart twice issued a public vote of confidence in Phillips during the 2011 season. Season ticket sales are down for the second straight year, and most preseason magazines have Kentucky finishing last in the conference. That's the environment facing the Wildcats to open 2012.

1. How hot is Phillips' seat entering his third year?

It's hot enough that...

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