Joker Phillips resigns as Florida wide receivers coach; Chris Leak to fill position

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

This is rough.

Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips has resigned from his position for "personal reasons," and will be replaced by Chris Leak, the school announced Wednesday.

"I’m thankful for the opportunity that the University of Florida and Will Muschamp provided to me and my family, but at this time I have decided to step down from my position on the UF coaching staff for personal reasons," Phillips said.

Added Muschamp: "I appreciate Joker’s contributions to our program and wish him and his wife, Leslie, nothing but the best in the future."

Phillips was hired in December 2012, and served as Florida's wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator from the Gators' preparation for the 2013 Sugar Bowl onward.

Leak, who led Florida to a national championship as the Gators' starting quarterback in 2006, and returned to Florida in 2013 as a graduate assistant and quality control coach, will take over for Phillips.

"I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Muschamp has given me and my family," said Leak. "It’s an honor to be coaching at my alma mater where I have so many fond memories both on and off the field. We have a tremendous coaching staff, a great group of players and a support system in place and I’m excited to be a part of it."

Phillips' resignation is jarring, especially considering that Phillips did arguably the best job of Florida's offensive coaches in 2013, helping Trey Burton, Quinton Dunbar, and Solomon Patton form the core of the Gators' finest receiving corps under Muschamp, despite a moribund offense. And his departure as recruiting coordinator is a blow, especially considering that the Gators are diving headlong into the summer recruiting season.

His replacement should mitigate some of the damage of his departure. Leak's been touted as a good offensive mind — Muschamp calls him a "bright young coach" and says he is "very familiar with our players and new system" in additional statements in this afternoon's GatorZone release — and is obviously a crowd-pleasing name. Leak's elevation also puts him in the crop of precocious young FBS assistant coaches, at just 29.

But Phillips leaving means that Florida will now have its sixth wide receivers coach since 2009, when Billy Gonzales left the Gators for LSU prior to the 2010 Sugar Bowl, reportedly informing Urban Meyer of his departure via Post-It.

Since then, the position has been filled by Zach Azzanni under Meyer in 2010, Aubrey Hill under Muschamp in 2011 and the offseason in 2012, Bush Hamdan — who served as Florida's wide receivers coach after being promoted from a graduate assistant position thanks to Hill's abrupt resignation — under Muschamp and Brent Pease for the 2012 season, Phillips for the 2013 Sugar Bowl, 2013 season, and 2014 offseason to this point, and now Leak.

Continuity is helpful for young players still learning the craft of football. At this one position, Florida has had very, very little of it.

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