Live coverage from Birmingham, where SB Nation is taking in the spectacle of SEC Media Days.
Sophomore Kentucky coach Joker Phillips has a hard road in Lexington. Kentucky's occasional successes in football will always be overshadowed there by whatever the basketball team's done lately. But if the face he's presenting to the assembled media in Birmingham is any indication, Phillips has all the tools he needs to succeed as a big-time college football coach. Observe:
• He gladhands the media. This used to be the terrain of Saban alone, who annually lowers his cold robot mask for this one day a year and applauds present reporters for covering America's beautiful game. But Phillips is canny enough to know when to emulate his competitors as it suits him, and endears himself to the room right away.
• He's not funny. Think back to the great coaches in this league. Chances are they're crusty old bastards, right? Phillips breezes through his opening remarks with a grim determination, then asks the room, "So what do you guys want to talk about?" as if we are here by his will alone. He drops the most positive public comment we've ever heard any NCAA professional make about the BBVA Compass Bowl -- "I like the late date" -- and keeps a straight face while doing so.
• He claims not to understand social media. This one's easy.
• He says few things with many words. Entering just his second season as an SEC skipper, Phillips is already eerily adept at giving two-minute answers you don't realize weren't really answers until they're over and he's onto the next question. The importance of this skill cannot be overstated, and between his adeptness here and Kentucky's schedule in the fall, expect great things from the Wildcats in 2011.