Florida Gators WR coach Joker Phillips resigns; Chris Leak to coach wide receivers

Updated on Thursday at 5:15 p.m.

After just one year on the job, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips has resigned from his position with the Florida Gators.

Graduate assistant Chris Leak, a four-year starter at quarterback and national championship-winning signal caller for the Gators in 2006, will take over coaching the position as a full-time staff member.

The second African-American head football coach in Southeastern Conference history, Phillips spent most of his 26-year coaching career with Kentucky before he was fired by the program during the 2012 season, his third as the Wildcats’ head coach.

He joined Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s staff that December, signing a two-year contract that was supposed to keep him at Florida through the 2014 campaign.

“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,” he said in a school release.

Neither Phillips nor UF provided any specific reason for his departure, though ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, citing a source, noted Phillips “resigned because of possible recruiting violations.” McMurphy retracted prior assertions that Phillips was forced to resign whether by Muschamp or someone else at the school.

FootballScoop.com‘s Scott Roussel cited a separate source which said “the issue at hand is a ‘bump’ [with] a [high school] junior” and that Phillips was “turned in by another program in Florida.” A “bump” in college recruiting is when a coach converses with a high school recruit outside of the allowable time periods at a “chance encounter,” whether the interaction was intended by the coach or not.

A source close to the program confirmed to OnlyGators.com that Phillips was indeed turned into the NCAA for a “bump” violation by a representative of Miami but could not say whether that incident led to his resignation.

Thursday update: Charles Robinson and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports report that Phillips’s resignation came on the heels of the NCAA receiving “a photo of the coach sitting in a restaurant with a high school recruit during a mandated dead period in recruiting.” Citing three sources, the duo further reports that “the photo was turned over to the NCAA by an individual with ties to the Miami Hurricanes athletics program. Should the NCAA determine Phillips improperly recruited during a mandated dead period, it could be considered a major NCAA violation.”

Read the rest of the original story…after the break!

Though Florida’s offense struggled in 2013, it appeared to have little to do with Phillips. Players and coaches alike praised him for his development of the Gators’ wideouts.

“A huge impact,” said Solomon Patton, UF’s most productive offensive weapon, of how Phillips’s coaching helped him develop. “We’re learning how to run our routes the right way and at the right depth. Just technique-wise and catching the ball, he’s made a huge impact.”

Patton caught 44 passes for 556 yards and six touchdowns during his senior campaign, all career-highs. He registered nearly 70+ yards four times including a six-reception, 124-yard, two-touchdown performance at home against Arkansas.

Redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar also excelled under Phillips’s tutiliege, breaking out with a four-catch, 98-yard game at Miami in the Florida’s second contest of the season and topping 60 yards four times during the campaign.

“I think he’s done an outstanding job,” said a beaming Muschamp of Phillips in September. “I think his production speaks for itself on the tape. Your tape is your resume as a coach. What you put on tape is who you are. I think he’s done a really good job. He’s been a good addition to our staff.”

It is the second time in three years that the Gators have seen a coach step down before the season only to have a graduate assistant take over his job.

Wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill, a former Miami position coach, parted ways with Florida in August 2012 due to his involvement with the Nevin Shaprio scandal, leaving Bush Hamdan to take on the responsibilities as a graduate assistant.

Leak is ready for the chance to succeed at his new profession. A Florida spokesman confirmed to OnlyGators.com that he has been hired to the coaching staff and is not filling in while remaining a graduate assistant.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Muschamp has given me and my family,” Leak said in the same release. “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.”

Leak rejoined the Florida program as a graduate assistant in 2013, spending most of his time working with the quarterbacks on offense. He is in his second year with the Gators, first as a paid coach, this time under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.

“Chris is a bright young coach,” Muschamp said. “He is one of the all-time Gator greats and being at Florida is very important to him. He has been working with Coach Roper and our offensive staff and is very familiar with our players and new system.”

Leak is the sixth man tasked with overseeing the Gators’ receivers in as many seasons, following Billy Gonzales (2009), Zach Azzanni (2010), Hill (2011), Hamdan (2012) and Phillips (2013). Hill, Hamdan and Phillips all coached under Muschamp.

Redshirt senior WR Andre Debose, entering his sixth year with the program, has never had the same position coach for more than a single season.

There is no word as to who will take over Phillips’s recruiting coordinator responsibilities, though Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is well-known as the strongest recruiter among the team’s assistants.

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35 Responses to “Florida Gators WR coach Joker Phillips resigns; Chris Leak to coach wide receivers”

  1. Matt says:

    What’s your take, Adam? Joker was a big relationship guy with the incoming boys and that doesn’t sit the same with Leak…

  2. W2 says:

    Any reason why he would just resign. Thought he was doing a good job.

  3. G2 says:

    This is not good, gonna hurt recruiting but then again you can’t expect a guy like him to hang around too long.

    • G2 says:

      Well if its for recruiting violations (as reported), that’s another story. Bummer we can’t keep asst coaches on-board for whatever reason. Thought we had stabilized.

  4. gatorboi352 says:

    More head scratching red flags under Muschamps watch. And now a graduate asst. that played QB is going to be coaching up wideouts on the intricacies of being a receiver? Great.

  5. gatorboi352 says:

    Looks like its a rules violation too. Damn, Joker.

  6. SW FL Joe says:

    So now Dubose is on his sixth different position coach. No wonder the kid hasn’t developed.

  7. Champ Supporter says:

    Very odd to me that gatorboi thinks a former QB would not know details about what a receiver should do. Not saying it’s wrong, just odd.

    The gators will be fine. And I do believe Debose’s work ethic up until a year may have more to do with his development.

    • Michael Jones says:

      It’s not odd to me at all. I think Gatorboi is dead on. Just because Leak threw to receivers doesn’t mean that he understands all the nuances and subtleties that go into playing that highly specialized position.

      I would expect, at least initially, a big drop off from a guy like Joker Phillips, a former SEC head coach who played the position in the NFL, and a former QB turned graduate assistant turned wide receivers coach.

      • Gatoralum88 says:

        Exactly! Just because I know how to drive a car doesn’t mean I’m “qualified” to tinker with its parts. Just because Leak was a great QB & knew how to throw to & find open receivers doesn’t qualify him for know ANYTHING about beating a man or CATCHING passes. Man, I wasn’t expecting to start seeing cracks this season until October at the earliest. So much for that.

        • Champ supporter says:

          So, the quarterback who has to know everyone’s responsibility would not know anything about the details of the WR position? Isn’t it the QBs who talk to WR’s and work with them on routes? Seriously, just asking because I find it very hard to believe that a former QB would not be good enough to know the details of that position.

          • gatorboi352 says:

            Because he didn’t play wide receiver?

            • Gatoralum88 says:

              Thank you gatorboi for feeling the need to spell that out for CS. I think all of us who frequent this site & have read some of his previous posts have come to the conclusion that he’s so blind in his Chump support that he’s not a very keen observer of the obvious which makes responding to him an effort in futility. Solomon Patton’s quotes above that Joker made “a huge impact. Just technique-wise and catching the ball” explain it best. For 19 of the last 22 years (with his other 3 years as an SEC head coach) Phillips was a RECEIVERS coach which came after a pro & college playing career as a RECEIVER! His blindness as a “Champ supporter” seem to make those facts too hard for him to grasp & make Leak’s hire seem good to him.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Let’s also not forget that Roper is bringing in a brand new, spread option offense. Something Leak isn’t exactly accustomed to. That coupled with this being the first year the two of them have worked together. That, coupled with Muschamp being on the hot seat. Quite an opportunity for Leak, but also, he now has every reason in front of him set up to fail.

      At the end of the day I would love nothing more than for the Gators to compete for championships every single year. But this is not a good look. At least they have all summer to adjust. Hopefully Roper steps in and assists a little more with the wideouts.

  8. Kaleb Wolfe says:

    It’s so ironic how if any of our UF coaches happen to “bump” into a prospective highschool player they must immediately resign cuz of course the NCAA & SEC is just aching to put us on probation though Alabama literally moves families from out of state find them new jobs as well asake sure they’re running backs are riding in high prices brand new vehicles they do this over & over but sadly due to the head of the NCAA and Alabama’s presidents friendship no one not even dares investigate this or even cover it like it should be looked into by the sports media , Bama running backs Trent Richardson and now Derek Henry I mean how much longer is this going to go on guys ha if Florida dared to to pull this they’d be on probation in a heartbeat sadly ???

  9. Michael Jones says:

    I’m with Adam. Weird. Looking forward to hearing his take.

    In Joker’s defense, I don’t think a “bump” is a huge recruiting violation. As I understand it (and I’m no expert), it’s a rule that puts a recruiter in the awkward position of either blowing a kid off that he’s been recruiting and just happened to bump into, or exchanging pleasantries with the kid (maybe more) and being in violation.

    Maybe we’ll never know the reasons for Joker’s departure, but it doesn’t feel right. Don’t want to overreact but why do our assistant coaches keep quitting or getting fired? Hopefully the “sinking ship” appearance it projects isn’t right.

  10. Michael Jones says:

    One other thing. . . . where is the fire? If you want to put Chris on the payroll as an assistant QB coach then, hey, I’m all for that. But why not pay our respects and give our best wishes to Joker, thank him for his contribution, and then announce that we are conducting a thorough, nationwide search for a QUALIFIED, EXPERIENCED, wide receivers coach? Are we playing LSU next week and nobody told me?

    This isn’t some class A high school football program we’re talking about here, Will. This is the (formerly) mighty Florida Gators football program. Goodness gracious, man. Pull yourself together.

    And, Foley, are you signing off on all of this???

    • Kaleb Wolfe says:

      I agree Mr. Jones I’m totally up for hiring a qualified wide receivers coach if it’s not too late to go out and find one and hire him given that we are almost then 80 days away from kick off but hey if we can pull it off I’d much rather have a seasoned older coach to as wide out assistant as opposed to a 29 year old former gator QB and graduate assistant who I doubt if will coach the position after this season regardless of wether Coach Muschamp is still the head coach or not Leak is just a filler unless our Wide Outs just happen to light it up this season if that be the case by all means keep leak there but I’m just not too big on graduate assistants hope Robinson will be the recruiting coordinator now he’s certainly earned it.

    • Gatoralum88 says:

      Michael, you’re on a roll! This was my second thought upon finding out about this. We’re still 7 weeks away from the start of practice yet Will can’t even take at least a week to find someone more qualified??? How about Kurt Roper’s brother Zac who’s currently the recruiting coordinator & tight ends coach at Duke? I’m sure he knows the offense & would jump at the chance to work with WR’s at UF. I’m not saying make him the recruiting coordinator but, if nothing else on that front, he could open some recruiting doors in that area. he’s WAY more qualified than just “knee-jerking” Leak into that role. While Leak is a fine young man, IMO, it’s a ridiculous hire!

  11. GatorBKP says:

    I’m personally happy with the resignation and was one of the first people to be in shock with the hire in the first place. Philips does not come from a winning pedigree at all but yet we hire him on our staff and give him the biggest responsibility associated with any program in the Recruiting Coordinator position?? What top recruits did he land at Kentucky? Anywhere else? His coaching track record has NOT been built nor associated with a winning pedigree but we hired him because he has “experience”. We all have experience doing something but that doesnt mean we’re the best at it. His hire, Charlie Weis, Brent Pease, Jeff Choate, all let me know that Muschamp has a hard time identifying winners or true competitors. We still need a true D.Coordinator!! DJ Durkin was the LB coach for years and got promoted to DC once Quinn left. Durkin is not a true DC, he’s a position coach. Quinn was by far the best coach Muschamp ever hired along with T-Rob and Brad Lawing. Again, Joker was a JOKE of a coach. Good luck elsewhere buddy….. GO GATORS!

    • G2 says:

      Totally agree with the Durkin comment, Quinn was the real deal. Don’t really like the hire myself, would like Leak at another position. Tough keeping the good coaches on board, here 2 years and gone if they are successful. Champs made a number of bad hires, hope this isn’t another one. Never a dull moment in Gville.

  12. Kaleb Wolfe says:

    I don’t think he wowed anyone as a receivers coach nor did he recruit that well he couldn’t even pull in his own god son, personally never liked the hire in the 1st place I want my coaches all of them to come from winning successful teams and Kentucky well the only success he ever had there was in 2007 with that very talented quarterback who never really amounted to nothing in the NFL surprisely anyways he took and defeated Arkansas as well as eventual 2 loss National Champion LSU both to overtime and won with him but that was a special college quarterback he had it’s was the same season Tebow got his heisman I wanna say his name was Andre Woodson I’m sure I’m wrong but I think I’m close I could look it up but I’m not I know my fellow Gators know who I’m talking about

  13. Daniel M. says:

    None of you guys know exactly why this transpired yet we have an all-star squad of armchair quarterbacks in here breaking it down. Or more specifically, uninformed knee-jerk reactions. Welcome to the Internet where subjectivity rules.

    • Michael Jones says:

      That’s what we do here, bro, we give our opinions. Hence the terms “message board” and “posting a comment.” Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, we often disagree . . . none of us are pros or experts, nor do any of us (except for hopefully Adam) get paid for giving our opinion . . but IMO the sorriest opinion is the opinion that’s against other people giving their opinions.

      But that’s just my opinion. . ha ha.

  14. Michael J. says:

    Phillips committed a major violation. UF is in big trouble and Muschamp is still going to say “We’ll be fine.” “We have a very good team.” “We’ll get it fixed.” “I can assure you. ” Isn’t it time to place the blame where it belongs? UF has been on a downward spiral ever since he was hired. Even when he won 11 games, no one thought the Gators were a great team. It was more like, that team won 11 games? Now one of the main reasons he was retained after the worst season in decades is that it would hurt recruiting. I don’t think recruiting would suffer any if he was let go since UF now has the dark cloud of the NCAA hovering over the program. Will someone please explain to me why Muschamp should remain the coach? I just think it’s now only a question of when, not if, he’ll be fired.

  15. G2 says:

    Muschamp has been over his head since day 1, just another example. What a cluster! Who took the photo, Urban?

  16. SW FL Joe says:

    Recruiting coordinator should have known better. UF had no choice but to force his resignation or fire him outright.
    At worse I could see losing a couple of scholarships but nothing more.

  17. GoUF says:

    I’m glad everyone is getting all their frustrations, knee-jerk reactions, and immature thinking out on this board. God help us if this is how everyone treats everyone and everything else in life outside of this message board.

  18. Matt says:

    So Adam, back to my original question. Do you think Leak is the right fit for this ice dance of a season we’re on the verge of embarking upon?

    I met Leak prior to his “professional retirement” and he was a snob nosed arena football quarterback who didn’t have the courtesy to treat some of his own team staff with any respect. Are we really hoping his underdeveloped understanding for communication is going to translate well to an actual profiled environment? Just because he happened to be on the team that won in ’06 that happened to be a REALLY good TEAM.

    Out of all the dumb decision making, it may sound ridiculous, but this takes the cake for me.

    • I’ve spoken with Leak on numerous occasions and never had a problem communicating with him in a professional manner. I think Florida probably should’ve gone and hired a WR coach from another program, but it’s very late in the process to do that and I’m not sure Muschamp wants to be a coach that steals an assistant from elsewhere into the summer. Leak should do a fine job though. He’s not as talented of a coach or recruiter as Phillips, but he could succeed.

      • Gatorgrad79 says:

        Aren’t we above hiring coaches of the calibre of “could succeed””?? Oh yeah, never mind….

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