Youngstown State head coach Doug Phillips spoke to the local media on Tuesday, previewing his Penguins' upcoming game against the No. 9 Kentucky Wildcats.
Phillips spoke at length about what Mark Stoops has built in Lexington and how he aims to replicate it in Youngstown:
"I have tremendous respect for what coach Stoops has done. It's almost like 10 years ago, they said, 'you know, Kentucky can't compete in the SEC.' You know, like us, you know, I hear day in and day out, 'why do we play in such a tough conference?' Well, guess why? Playing a tough conference is going to prepare you nationally, you know, just like they have at Kentucky, and look at Kentucky, they're in the top 10 now and they compete in the SEC, they go to bowl games, they win. And their next step is to win the SEC. So it's kind of a blueprint, you know, can we do the same thing here at Youngstown State in the Missouri Valley? Can we recruit to what we need to? You know, it started at Kentucky, they had to recruit the players at Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, and then to develop those young men to be able to compete week-in and week-out because, their schedule, guess what? They don't have any soft ones, just like we won't have any soft ones."
The relationship between Stoops and Phillips isn't anything special, but there is a mutual admiration between the two, which is something that happens when you connect through a place like Youngstown.
"I think if you're from Youngstown, you carry that no matter where, and I think that's why you see a lot of successful coaches, you know, whether it was Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Bo Pelini, all those guys. I think it's the upbringing and the football that they were taught," Phillips said.
Phillips said he spoke with Stoops when landing the transfer of former Wildcat wide receiver Bryce Oliver, who joined the Penguins in 2021 after three seasons in Lexington.
"(Stoops) really liked Bryce, you know, and just like all coaches, young kids, when they're young, they just want to play right away and you know, that was during COVID, But he spoke so highly of Bryce and thought that this would be a great fit for him," Phillips said.
While Kentucky will be heavily favored against Youngstown on Saturday, both Stoops and Phillips are well aware that nothing comes easy in college football nowadays.
"It's hard to win college football games. I know coach Stoops will have his guys ready to go, because guess what? On any given Saturday, we're dealing with 18 to 23-year-old young men, and to make sure that their mindset is ready each and every week...that's probably the biggest challenge I think head coaches have, is just making sure their teams ready to play," Phillips said. "So, you know, for us, yes, teams have done it. And for us, I told our kids we need to be the best version of ourselves and that's regardless of who we're playing."