Offense Bounces Back Behind Newton's Strong Day

April 13, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After Joker Phillips praised the Kentucky defense for playing well in the team’s first major scrimmage of the year last Saturday, the head football coach expressed that same pleasure after practice Wednesday morning, saying the offense responded well on a beautiful day at the Nutter Training Facility.

Phillips was not only pleased with how the offense responded Wednesday, but spoke highly of the play of junior quarterback Morgan Newton. The second-year head coach said the starting quarterback threw the ball better at practice, guiding the offense to make several impressive plays. Phillips told reporters after practice that Newton is starting to have “some swag going.”

“You have seen how our quarterbacks grow up here and how they change,” Phillips said. “He is playing with a lot more confidence and has some swag going, as they would say. He is starting to feel good about his performance because he is making plays. That is what happens. If you make a couple of plays, you start feeling better about yourself and better about the offense and start studying the offense a little bit more. We just need Morgan to grow into that position.”

One key component to the offense this season, besides the development of Newton, is going to be the play of sophomore running back Raymond Sanders. The native of Stone Mountain, Ga., had 68 rushing attempts last season for 254 yards and three touchdowns. Phillips said that he has been happy with Sanders so far this spring and his understanding of the Wildcats’ offense but is still looking for improvements.

“For one thing, Raymond has a really, really good understanding of our offense,” Phillips said. “I really like what he is doing in our running game, but I think what Raymond has to do is understand how to pick up blitzes better. We are getting a chance to see a lot of stuff coming at him and in our passing attack our backs have to be able to pick up blitzes.”

Conversely to the offense’s strong play in practice, Phillips said the defense needs to continue to show improvement. The Kentucky head coach said the Wildcats installed yet another defensive package into its playbook this week and with more and more being installed.

“The offense was making plays and defensively we got another new package that comes in today and we had way too many busts (in coverage),” Phillips said. “Our guys have to pay a lot more attention in the meeting rooms … They dominated on defense Saturday but today I thought that our offense bounced back and responded.”

Phillips said a trend so far this spring has involved the defense showing improvements after film sessions. Phillips hopes the trend continues this week and improvements to the most recently installed defensive package are made.

“The film that we will have from today’s practice will give those guys an opportunity to teach off of it and they should get better the next practice,” Phillips said. “That is what has happened in the past. We would put a package in and it wouldn’t look that good on the field, but we would go in and teach off of it and come back the next day and execute it better.”

Kentucky will return to the practice field Friday morning before holding another scrimmage Saturday in Commonwealth Stadium. The scrimmage is closed to the public and media.