Recruits react to Phillips’ resignation

Joker Phillps' departure will hurt the Gators more on the football field than the recruiting trail. (Photo by (Doug Finger/Staff Photographer)

Florida receivers coach Joker Phillips resigned Wednesday, and assistant Chris Leak will take over his position on the staff.

UF incoming freshman Ryan Sousa, who flipped from Florida State to the Gators in December of last year, was devastated by the news.

“I’m sad to hear it,” he said. “He was one of the reasons I came to Florida. He’s surely going to be missed. He was a big asset as a coach.”

Unlike Aubrey Hill, whose recruiting skills were expected to be missed more than his coaching efforts when he left UF, Phillips’ departure has the opposite impact.

Though Phillips was perceived as a valuable recruiting addition to Will Muschamp’s staff at the time of his hire, he did not produce many top prospects for the Gators.

In the 2014 recruiting cycle, they missed on receivers such as Johnnie Dixon, Ermon Lane, Artavis Scott and Travis Rudolpoh. Phillips also failed to get his godson, Under Armour All-American and LSU safety signee Jamal Adams, to join him in Gainesville.

His inability to land 2014 targets probably had a lot to do with UF’s 4-8 season, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

The two receivers in Florida’s 2015 class won’t waver with Phillips gone. Tight ends coach Derek Lewis was responsible for Derrick Dillon’s commitment, and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper primarily recruited Tristan Payton.

“It doesn’t affect me at all,” Payton said of Phillips. “I’m still solid.”

What appears to have appealed to receiver recruits about Phillips was his ability to coach the position, which he did a commendable job of last season considering the circumstances.

The early returns on Leak assuming his coaching duties are positive.

Sousa camped at UF last summer and was impressed with Leak.

“He’s a QB, so he knows the wide receiver position,” Sousa said. “He can get what he needs out of the players because he has that perspective.”

Added Gators 2016 commit Tre Jackson on Twitter: “Chris Leak coached me all camp down at UF last year. Man knows what he’s doing.”

Tyler Byrd, Florida’s other verbal for 2016, is an athlete who could play either receiver or cornerback in college.

Phillips’ resignation seems to have made up his mind.

“That’s a big loss,” Byrd said. “He’s a really good coach, and I’m leaning more towards playing defense now that he’s not there.”

Related: Perspective on Leak replacing Phillips


  1. Will miss Joker and wish him well. But I believe Chris will do a great job coaching and recruiting. Hard to refuse a visit or listen to a former national champion QB when he calls or visits. Chris, I think, will be a successful head coach some day. I sure hope Joker does not have any serious health or family issues. But this sure came out of nowhere. He was posting CHOMP CHOMP about a recruit just the other day.

  2. The lack of any significant coaching retainage is appalling under Muschamp…the program continues in a downward spiral. I love Chris Leak, but he has never coached at the FBS level, and we now have another coach in training in addition to Chump.

  3. First, if Zphillips resigned because of a recruiting violation, good riddance. I’m glad UF takes matters seriously. I live a few minutes from Chapel Hill and am watching the debacle unfold in the UNC program. If Joker is gone due to a violation, it has zero to with the head ball coach’s lack of ability to hold together his staff. Second, I’m pleased Chris Leak us joining the staff. He is an outstanding, upright guy and a true blue Gator. And third, I we’ll recall all you who like to call the coach “Chump” and “Chimp” griping a year ago that Muschamp was “too dumb” to hire Chris Leak to an on field coaching position. Your perpetual bad-mouthing our program makes me wonder if you actually attended UF or if you’re over age 17.

  4. Re: Leak… former quarterbacks make terrific wide receiver coaches. He understands offenses, passing and communications with receivers. The OC is a longtime receivers coach. Someday Chris Leak will likely be our HBC. Great hire amid a bad, sad situation with Joker. And none of us ever need question Leak’s love for our university.

  5. So if you take away the rumor of recruiting issues (although to be fair, some of those Joker place cards were criminal), I think most people figured he wasn’t long for the gators seeing he was demoted to WR coach after he was a head coach. There was talk about him not getting along with Pease as well as being a possible OC candidate if Pease ever left. Roper seems to be the first OC we’ve had In a while who is developing players, who knows what has been going on this spring coaching wise.
    I hope for the program’s sake there were no recruiting violations.
    Leak is a considered a better recruiter but I just hope the first glance of a band aid approach doesn’t affect some of the top WR recruits in the 14 class.

  6. You said it Mac. I mean this is by no means good news but it’s not doom. Some people will gripe no matter what is happening. these people saying the program is in shambles are the same types as the few in Alabama who wanted Saban fired after last year. Last year was a disaster yes and we have a right to expect better. But ever since the season ended momentum has been soaring our way. Confidence has been higher than ever and this offseason has been excellent for us. 1 piece of bad news doesn’t change that. Some people…

  7. To anyone who thinks this is all negative let me remind you that FSU changed out 5 positions on their staff before last season….. A guy with Jokers resume and previous head coaching experience wasn’t going to remain a position coach for more than a year or 2 anyway. If this coming year goes about like I think it will9 or 10 wins someone will come calling on Roper for a head coaching position after 2 years at the most… is all a part of CFB nowadays.

  8. Great points, everyone! Just to note, our new WRs ciach is 29-years old, one year older than Muschamp when Will became Saban’s def coord at ZlSU, a yr younger than East Carolina’s OC Lincoln Riley who is moving up coaching lists, a little older than was Mike Shanahan when he became our OC and QB coach. Leak is married to a fellow UF grad and they have a four-yr old child. He was a finalist for the Draddy Award, as an outstanding student at UF, and became keynote speaker for his UF graduating class. Brings playing experience and reputation for immense film study and inspirational speaker to middle and high school teens. A home run hire!

  9. I always thought Joker had a bigger impact in recruiting. You could argue that he helped salvage the 2014 class after the devastating season. Joker will be missed in the recruiting side IMO.

    However, having Chris Leak in the wings was excellent luck (or preparation?). Sorry to see Joker gone, but definitely glad to see Leak getting his shot!

  10. Our shambles people probably never played or coached organized sports and live vicariously through those who do, so it’easy for them to be negative. My family is a huge Chris Leak fan and I’m sure he will add quality to the UF football program in a variety of ways from his new position. Go GATORS!

  11. Why would someone say they have more confidence in Leak’s coaching ability than Muschamps? Leak has never been a coach. Muschamp has produced a top ten defense just about every year, every single place he coaches. Even in our horrible years, we have a top ten defense. It’s the offense that’s the problem and Muschamp doesn’t coach offense.

  12. Why is everyone freaking out about this?? Was he a great recruiter?? NO! Was he a great coach? NO! Did anyone see how none of our receivers could get open or produce big plays? This guy was bringing nothing to the table. He was a bust. I do not agree with giving the job to Leak, but Phillips leaving is not a big deal at all. Especially if he was cheating. I give kudos to Muschamp for forcing him out if the rumors are true.

  13. Sometimes I wonder if most you clowns are even Gator fans or know anything about football. Way too many negative Nancys on here! First off, more info has come out since yesterday and it looks like Joker had a “bump” with a junior recruit and was turned in by our friends down in Miami. For those of you that don’t know what a “bump” is go look it up, very minor and not a big deal which leads me to believe this couldn’t have just been the only violation. Those of you saying Joker wasn’t a good coach are idiots, he was getting these boys where they needed to be for this year and had only been here for one freaking year!! Leak will be fine, Roper runs the offense regardless and has plenty of experience with WR’s. TRob is our best recruiter and will take over as RC so no drop off there and if anything an improvement!! An for crying out loud it freaking JUNE!! The studs of this class like Cowart, Campbell, Jefferson, Ivey and Holland will be keeping tabs with how this team performs on the gridiron come FALL, not that we lost a position coach in JUNE!! Pump the breaks people, I think Foley made the ultimate decision in this case and not Coach Boom.

  14. To think Joker was a long-term guy as a receivers coach was absurd. Muschamp gave him a place to chill while he thought about his next big move. In the mean time he mentored up some kids and did some recruiting for us. Don’t know why anyone would be shocked he was moving on even if there weren’t any purported ‘bump’ incidents. As far as the negativity on this blog, I’m all for honest expression of ideas but there are time when people are out of bounds. Don’t believe me? Check out the Gator blog at a particular Miami newspaper — it is a complete mess with the UM trollers. There is nothing constructive in the comments column — I quit following the Gators on that publication because of it.

  15. The program is not in shambles! Some of you are so full of, well, you know! Every program lose coaches and usually it ‘s unexpected. Look at Pruitt leaving FSU for Georgia. It happens people! If you have no faith in Leak, you were probably one of the ones who said he wasn’t a good QB, prior to the 06 season. He won a NC and will excel in his new position, as well.


  16. Good hire by the Gators, too bad there are so many negative individuals out there that spew their negativism out there. I am glad football is played on the field instead of these sports columns. Great recruiting class that just signed, great prospects are lining up in 2015 and 2016. I wish people could be patient, support the team, and have confidence in the growth of this years team. All of this negativism by all of THESE SO CALLED EXPERTS IS SICKENING. Go Gators.

  17. I think these negative individuals that keep bashing the program and Muschamp are comparable to the characters that have bashed LeBron James about his game after game 1 against the Spurs. Some Gator “fans” are so delusional to think that the Fla Gators and even LeBron James will PLAY PERFECT FOOTBALL/basketball AND THEY WILL NEVER LOSE A GAME. Florida fans face it, the Gators will never play perfect football and they will lose eventually sometime during most seasons. A lot of Gator fans are never satisfied unless they achieve total perfection. Is is very hard to go undefeated every season.

  18. Think about it. If you lost your job, took several steps down in your next job, were passed over for a promotion to a job that you still considered a step down with your vast talents and experience (ok ego also), wouldn’t you quit–if you could afford to–which I think he can. The main issue is did we anticipate and prepare for this? I think CL can be a valuable asset to our program. But, is he in the right spot at the right time? Probably not but Roper can mentor and provide support. He will need to come out of his shell–yes Chris, it can be done–if he wants to continue progressing in the Coaching ranks. I’m so tired of all the negativity–GO GATORS!!!

  19. Best wishes go out to the “Joker” and his family, I think as much as a coach sacrifices for the university and neglects (in a way) his family to do so he should be commended for his work and dedication. THANKS JOKER!!
    And for Chris Leak, I’m as happy as pie that this guy is getting a shot to learn from coach Roper. Chris has been around this university and this team since he graduated, much of the time with no pay to speak of. His dedication to the UF has finally paid off and I for one am very happy for him. GO GATORS!!!!

  20. I love all of the positive spin, but if the recruiting violation story is true, it is a major hit for Muschamp. To say that his personnel choices have been suspect would be an understatement. Nothing about his management of the program indicates that he’s up to the task of being the HC at Florida. I like him personally. I think he’s a good man, and I’d love to have him prove me wrong. I’ll be at The Swamp cheering for his team to succeed. But I just don’t see this ending well for Muschamp. I don’t think he’s the right guy.

  21. After receiving numerous complaints about snowprint, I will be deleting any future comments he makes. I apologize for not having time in the past to monitor/delete his posts. I have also saved his IP address so he can’t use a different name. I’d like to take this time to remind everyone of our commenting guidelines:
    “Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.”

  22. The shocking thing about this Joker situation is that he is a seasoned coach, not a young ‘buck’ trying to hustle his way up the coaching ladder. I’m hoping he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and a brief lapse in judgment ensued. He has to understand that the NCAA is starting to sanction the individuals involved as the circumstances dictate and not blindly slap the football program for which they work. In any case, swiftly severing ties with him was the smart move here.