After the 1996 football season with the New England Patriots, Bill Parcells quipped that if an organization wanted him to cook the meal he should be allowed to shop for the groceries.
Parcells meant that if he was going to be held responsible for how the players performed on game day, he should have a say in which players he would take to the field with him.
College coaches are afforded that luxury and recruiting is the lifeblood of every program across the country. The key to being a good recruiter is building relationships and that is just what recent Florida wide receiver coach Joker Phillips did with incoming freshman C.J. Worton. Worton — a slot receiver from South Dade — was one-of-two receiver commits in the class of 2015, Phillips’ first full recruiting class with the Florida Gators.
“He played a big part in my recruitment,” Worton said of Phillips. “So hearing this, it was heart breaking. But, you know, I’ve made my decision. He’s not the only reason I chose Florida; there’s multiple other reasons.”
A former SEC head coach at Kentucky, Phillips was not just Florida’s receivers’ coach but the recruiting coordinator as well. He built relationships both on and off the field with many of the recruits that Florida will bring in this recruiting cycle. It was the off the field relationship that Worton says will be missed the most.
“It shouldn’t affect it too much on the field as much as we’ll miss him off the field,” said Worton. “He was a great guy, he was really a players coach; someone who I built a really good connection with. But on the field as far as production and everything, nothing should be fazed by it.”
Why does Worton believe this departure won’t affect Florida? “In the end, it’s the University of Florida. Whoever coaches is going to be up to par,” he said.
The person who will take over is none other than Florida’s 2006 National Champion quarterback, Chris Leak. Despite not being recruited by Leak, Worton does have a relationship with his soon to be position coach. Worton’s brother Cody was a walk-on safety at Florida from 2006-2008, and friends with Leak.
“It’s definitely cool. Just watching him play [growing up], he earned my respect as a player,” Worton said of Leak. “It shouldn’t be too hard. He’s had a lot of coaching and he’s been around working with the receivers while he’s been up there. I hope he does a good job, steps in there and hopefully I can make his life a little easier.”
Despite calling the loss of Phillips “heartbreaking”, Worton remains optimistic and excited to get started at Florida this summer. The freshman receiver will arrive in Gainesville on June 22nd with his family for orientation and will officially enroll at the university on the 24th.