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Phillips joins end-of-spring SEC teleconference

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With spring football wrapping up this past weekend with the Blue/White Game, head coach Joker Phillips joined the Southeastern Conference Coaches Media Teleconference to talk about his team. Here is the complete transcript of his comments:

On UK's team coming off of spring practice ...
"We think we made some tremendous progress. We got a lot of our goals accomplished that we set out for spring ball, which is, one, just make sure we got all of our players in the right position. We've had some position changes early in spring that we want to give our kids an opportunity to compete and give ourselves a chance to get the best players on the field. We feel good about the position changes. You don't want to go start making position changes this time of year after spring ball and waste the opportunity to get people in the best position during those 15 practices. A lot of young kids that got a chance to continue their development on both sides of the ball, on offense, defense and also the special teams. We're looking forward to getting back with these young men in August."

On which specific position changes have been executed ...
"We moved a young running back, Marcus Caffey, from running back to one of our corners. He's made the transition really smooth. We think he has a chance to be a big-time player. He was recruited by a lot of teams to be a corner, but we offered him an opportunity to be a tailback and we did give him that opportunity his first year. Then he came into us after this season and wanted to be given an opportunity to play at the corner position so that's worked out really well for us. He finishes the spring as our starting boundary corner and he's a big, strong physical guy that's very athletic and looks like the corners you play against in this league. We were able to move Josh Forrest, who came in as a wide receiver, to an outside linebacker. The thing that we have to do is project and we projected Josh Forrest to be a wide receiver/tight end or an outside backer someday. He has settled in at the outside linebacker position and doing it very well. Now we have a 6-foot-3-and-a-half, 230-pound backer that came here after two years of playing high school football at 190 pounds, so we feel good about that change also. We moved Daryl Collins from an outside receiver to a slot receiver and we will not work him at both positions and just getting him settled in at the slot receiver, I think that's been a real helpful move for us also. We moved Teven Eatmon(-Nared), who is our backup left guard, he was playing some tackle last year to guard. We moved (Kevin) Mitchell from inside guard to a right tackle and he's actually starting at the right tackle now."

On what impressed him about Mikie Benton enough to offer a walk-on spot and what he's done to become a starter at safety ...
"First of all, he was a smart kid. He came here as an engineering student on an academic scholarship and he had won and competed in the state championship here in Kentucky in track. It was a guy that was smart and could run and was blessed with a pretty good body. Once we got into this thing, and he's been a guy that we've used as an example in terms of when we bring walk-ons into our program. Mikie Benton was invited back for the 105 after the first year. He was not invited back with the 105, which is to start training camp, after his second year. Not until his third year was he invited back for training camp even. (He was) a guy that was real persistent and worked his tail off and got a chance to get on the field as a special teams player and then moved from a special teams player to a guy that, when we changed defenses, he was one of the guys that picked up and grasped it quicker than anyone, which gave him an opportunity to get on the field and compete. We've used Mikie Benton a lot in homes when we're tying to talk guys into walking on."

On John L. Smith taking over as head coach at Arkansas ...

"I know John L. a little, have spent a little time with him in my time at Cincinnati when we competed against him at Utah and at Louisville. In terms of him taking over this time of the year, I don't really know the situation but the teams that I have competed against him, they are always very competitive. We know that Arkansas has a lot of good athletes returning, good football players returning. John L. will have those guys competing at a high level."

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