Joker Phillips is gone from Florida, having resigned on Wednesday over what may have been a "bump," according to multiple reports. And I've spent a bunch of words and a fair few hours puzzling over what that means for Florida as a program.
But I've neglected to explain what losing Phillips — and, additionally, gaining Chris Leak as his replacement at wide receivers coach — means for Florida on the field and the recruiting trail. The answers, I think, are "probably a lot" and "probably not much," respectively.
What losing Joker Phillips the coach means
I thought Phillips did the best job of any Florida offensive coach in 2013, and I didn't think it was particularly close. Check out the dramatic improvements made by Florida's top three pass-catchers, all wide receivers.
|One catch, 17 yards
|44 catches, 556 yards, six TDs
|36 catches, 383 yards, four TDs
|39 catches, 528 yards
|18 catches, 172 yards, one TD
|38 catches, 445 yards, one TD
Florida's top five wide receivers in 2012 — Dunbar, Frankie Hammond, Jr., hybrid RB/WR/TE types Burton and Omarius Hines, and Patton — combined for 100 catches for 1,109 yards and eight touchdowns. Florida's top five wide receivers in 2013 — Patton, Dunbar, Burton, Ahmad Fulwood, and Demarcus Robinson — had 144 catches for 1,699 yards and eight touchdowns. There was nowhere to go but up, and the touchdown numbers didn't budge — though that, and a lack of truly impressive production, can be chalked up to injuries and general offensive inefficacy — but Phillips's charges were unequivocally more productive in 2013 than in Florida's wideouts were in 2012.
And the numbers don't totally explain the difference in quality of play between the two groups. Yes, the 2013 wide receiving corps was probably more talented than the 2012 wide receiving corps, but receivers ran better, crisper routes for the most part, and helped Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, and Skyler Mornhinweg more than the 2012 receivers helped Driskel and Jacoby Brissett.
I had no complaints about Phillips in 2013, and was looking forward to seeing Florida's even more talented 2014 receiving corps combining his tutelage with the space provided by Kurt Roper's offense. And while it's hard to imagine that those wide receivers won't remember some of Phillips's teachings, and easy to assume Leak learned plenty from Phillips, too, I think the pass-catching Gators would have been well-served to spend another year learning from the Joker.
What losing Joker Phillips the recruiter means
For a guy who was Florida's recruiting coordinator in title, Phillips didn't have all that much to show for it on the trail.
The majority of Florida's 2013 class at wide receiver was assembled before Phillips was hired in December 2012, with only Demarcus Robinson joining the fold after Phillips became a Gator. And while Phillips deserves some credit for being in contact with Robinson and flipping him at the last moment, the lion's share of the credit for staying on Robinson long enough to ultimately pull him out of Clemson's clutches at the last minute has to go to the Florida coaches who were on him for the duration of the recruiting cycle.
Florida was poised to reel in two coups in the 2013 recruiting class that could be credited to Phillips, wide receiver Ermon Lane and safety Jamal Adams — Phillips's godson. But Phillips wasn't the most important reason Lane committed to Florida — that's was likely either Dalvin Cook, Travaris Robinson, or Quincy Wilson — and wasn't able to keep him in the fold, and Adams opted to attend LSU despite his personal connection to Phillps.
Late flips Ryan Sousa and C.J. Worton both count for Phillips, more or less, and both players were upset to hear of Phillips's departure. But they are also both likely to be fringe contributors in 2014, unless they are sensational in fall practices, so it's going to be hard to evaluate how good they are for a while.
And for a coach who was touted for his recruiting acumen and explicitly called Florida's recruiting coordinator, two slot receivers whose impacts will probably not be instant isn't much of a haul.