Joker Phillips Monday Press Conference Coverage

Sept. 12, 2011

Head Coach Joker Phillips

THE MODERATOR: Coach Phillips has arrived early so we'll get started with his portion of the news conference today. We'll turn it over to Coach Phillips.

COACH PHILLIPS: Injury report. Matt Smith will not practice tomorrow. Billy Joe Murphy will not practice tomorrow. Taiedo Smith will not practice tomorrow. Gene McCaskill is a deal where we're trying to take care of a veteran and he will practice on Wednesdays. That's what he did last week. He will continue to do that until we feel like he's strong enough to go a couple days a week. He'll practice on Wednesday and then he'll do some of the walk-through stuff on Thursday.

Louisville week, it's a big week. Those guys have done a good job over there, especially offensively. They're averaging about 415 yards a game. They out-gamed FIU 150 yards. Stein (quarterback Will Stein) is completing 62% of his passes. Got some really good-quality receivers. DeVante Parker has two touchdowns, Michaelee Harris, a true freshman, averaging about 16 yards a catch, (Josh) Chichester is averaging about 18 yards a catch. Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright, two solid backs rotating at the tailback position.

Their defense is an aggressive-style defense. They are doing a really good job of stopping the run, only giving up 94 yards of rushing (per game) and only 2.5 per rush, so doing a good job of stopping the run.

Linebackers, Dexter Heyman, really like him, leading tackler, leading tackler for loss. He's lining up all over the place, lots of different spots. They've moved him around every year up until last year when he really settled in at the Mike linebacker position. He was a Sam linebacker, now a Mike linebacker, doing a really good job for them. (They are) Only giving up 16 points a game also.

It will be a huge challenge for us. Give us another opportunity to see where our program is at. We got to prepare our guys for this tough battle, tough in-state battle.

Any questions?

Q. Re: center Matt Smith improving from injury

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, we thought he was, so we practiced him a couple days, actually just one day, last week. He wasn't as close as we thought he was. But he's still getting treatment, trying to get himself back to where he could be an asset for us.

He's been out of town the last couple of days, Grandpop died. A couple guys went up to be with him. But we're hoping to get him back here soon.

Same with Billy Joe (Murphy). We got to get Billy Joe back in the mix. Although the young guy (Darrian Miller) did do a really good job, but it only helped our depth.

Q. Re: Josh Clemons

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, you know, you hear the buzz around a facility in the summer of how he works in the weight room. This is really the first year Coach Oliver and his staff have timed our guys. We don't like to time them as we get close to training camp in fear of pulling muscles and those things, being out. Coach Oliver timed them as soon as they got here.

He ran a pretty good time. We didn't know he was as fast as he looked on the day, but he did run a pretty good time, got the work ethic in the weight room. Then we just started getting him reps in training camp.

He was the back that showed up every day. Didn't miss a day. So he's really durable. Really understood our offense. Then when we went into our first scrimmage, some of the cuts he made, his vision, his balance, those things, his ability to secure the football, those are the things that told us that we thought he could be a pretty good back for us.

Q. Does preparation change when you have a big rivalry like this?

COACH PHILLIPS: Time-wise we'll treat it the same. We're limited in how much time we can work. It doesn't change the time; it doesn't change the way we'll practice.

Yes, every week we got to turn the tempo up, try to get ourselves better and better. It won't change significantly 'cause we're only limited by time. But the way we practice, every week, like I say, we'll have to turn the tempo up to try to get ourselves better.

Q. Do you talk at all about the rivalry?

COACH PHILLIPS: You don't have to say much. Our kids know about this rivalry. They know. We talk about the rivalries they've been in high school. It's magnified. I think the in-state kids here in Kentucky are familiar with it and they express it to the kids who are not from the state of Kentucky. But they understand this rivalry.

Q. On players improving their 40-yard dash times.

COACH PHILLIPS: Right now they're not as fast as they would be in the summer because they're a little sore. We've been through training camp. We've been through two weeks of the season. You don't expect them to be faster. I would expect from the time he (Coach Oliver) timed them when they first got here to the start of training camp they might have gotten faster with strength. Right now I wouldn't think they'd run as fast. That's not just our guys, it's everybody, because of being beat up.

Q. On getting Morgan Newton more involved in the running game

COACH PHILLIPS: Not just Saturday, the rest of the season. We've got to run Morgan. We've told him that from day one, we're going to have to run you more. He's a big, physical runner also, especially when he gets in the secondary, guys start bouncing off of him.

He's faster than he looks. Morgan Newton is faster than he looks. He showed it in the first game. He's got some speed. We'll definitely have to run him. We'll get into the (shot)gun a little bit more. When we get in the gun, that gives us a two-back running game.

When you get the last two quarterbacks we had, you get in the gun, you were limited with Andre' and Mike Hartline, you were limited with what you could run in the running game. With Morgan, you can run a lot more downhill plays with him.

Q. Why is Louisville so good against the run?

COACH PHILLIPS: They definitely stack the box and dare you to throw it. Teams have had some success throwing the ball on them. We'll have to throw it consistently to have a chance to get them out of the box so we can run the ball.

The thing we are doing, did good last week, is running the ball. Ran for 230 yards. We expect the box to be stacked even more this week. We have to complete some passes to get them into some coverages.

Sometimes they bluff you by bringing everybody up to the line of scrimmage, talk you out of your runs, then dare you to get into the throw game, then drop everybody out into zone coverage which sometimes creates problems.

We got to be on point in recognizing all their blitzes, recognizing when they're coming also.

Q. On Morgan Newton throwing the ball deep compared to short passes.

COACH PHILLIPS: I can tell you this, he's had nine drops, nine or ten drops. Those hurt his numbers. The deep ball has been good to us. Like I say, we'll have to continue to throw the deep ball. Like I say, you throw four, five deep balls, you hit three of them, you could be easily 21 points up.

Last week La'Rod (King) caught two deep balls. We actually threw three. We were one for three. Actually two for three. Another one could have been a touchdown. So we've got to continue to throw the deep ball.

But we also got to throw the underneath stuff better because it only gets them closer to the line of scrimmage, trying to shut down the underneath stuff. Gives us the chance to throw over their heads.

The thing that gives us the best chance to throw over their heads is running the ball efficient. I think that is what is giving us the chance last week to throw over their heads, putting it in one of the runningbacks’ belly, pulling it out, and now throwing over the top of them because the safety is starting to have to get involved.

Q. On throwing shorter passes accurately.

COACH PHILLIPS: A lot of it has to do with getting lined up correctly, setting his feet and throwing the ball. Actually we were two for three. We actually had another one that we missed that would have been a touchdown, too. So you throw the deep ball, you complete three of them, three of the ones we had, that's 21 points. Three of them would have been for touchdowns.

He just has to throw the ball. Get relaxed first of all. Don't try to throw a fastball every time, just throw it with touch, get it to the receivers, give those guys a chance to make a play.

Q. On the tight ends not catching any passes the first two games.

COACH PHILLIPS: We've had to use them in protection. See how many times we've gotten sacked? We've had to use those guys in protection. They haven't gotten out. We go through our reads. If people are collapsing on them, should give us a chance to throw to the receivers downfield, which I think we've done pretty good.

Q. On Louisville’s last win in the series coming in 2006.

COACH PHILLIPS: This is an important game, period. We've talked about that. The team that has won this game, usually went on and had a pretty successful season. It's important. It's not important to say the last time they've won it, all those things. That's not important. We just don't want to hear that the last time we won this game, the iPhone 4 was in here.

It's important for us to win the game because of the success that the winner has had after winning this game.

Q. Charlie Strong said after the game Friday night you guys were the better team.

COACH PHILLIPS: I said it the other day. We'll get to see. It's hard to judge teams when they haven't played common opponents. Who knows how well we would have done against Murray State and FIU? Who knows how well they would have done against Western Kentucky and Central Michigan? The way to judge that is play each other. We do play each other this week so we'll be able to know after this game.

Q. Is Morgan hesitant to run or are you hesitant to let him run?

COACH PHILLIPS: We haven't been hesitant to run him. We heard the criticism when we did run him.

We always thought for us to have success with him, he's got to be able to run it because he can be a force. The guy is 235 pounds, he runs well. I would say he runs as good as many -- probably runs better than our tight ends. That's moving pretty good. We've always run him.

The thing that Morgan has to do is when he drops back to pass, and he did it two weeks ago, when he drops back to pass, he needs to say, Is he open? No. Is he open? No. Let's go. That's when you have some huge runs. We saw that in the first game.

Next guy wasn't open, lane opened up, he has to pull it down and run with it.

Q. How has Darrian Miller done in the offensive line?

COACH PHILLIPS: I thought he played outstanding for us. He was a guy that got a (indiscernible) for playing good enough to win. He did have a mistake.

You guys notice him? Anybody call his name out? You don't call the offensive lineman's name out, they usually have done pretty good. We think he's got a chance to be a real talent.

Now, if we can get Billy Joe back, it even brings more depth back to our offensive line.

Q. How about as a freshman, being able to compete on a college level?

COACH PHILLIPS: I can tell you this: there was no one in here that guessed Darrian Miller would have been a starter in a game this year. I'm happy to have him there because the guy has a chance to be a talent and also he gives us a lot of depth. You very seldom see a true freshman go in there and play.

When he got here, he was bigger than we thought. We height and weighted him on his official visit. He's done some work on his own. He's now 295 pounds. Still a very lean guy. Very athletic. He has long arms. He uses his hands well. That gives a guy a chance.

And the kid is unbelievably smart. He's an unbelievably intelligent guy.

Q. On Josh Clemons vision, is that something you can teach?

COACH PHILLIPS: The guy has vision, has balance. You guys got to talk to him earlier. Really sharp kid. He's strictly business when he comes in the building.

Q. If Kentucky looked at Will Stein during the recruiting process.

COACH PHILLIPS: Stein, his dad and I played together, Matt Stein. So, yes, we did look at him. He walked on at their place also. We offered him an opportunity to walk on also. Probably the situation was a little bit better there.

He's become a really good player for those guys. (He) does a good job of pulling the ball down and running it. He's completed 62% of his passes. Everybody shied away from his height. His height definitely hasn't been a factor. All he's done is gone out there and competed and competed at a high level.

Q. Re: players from Trinity High School.

COACH PHILLIPS: You know, the state of Kentucky, sometimes you can know too much about a home guy. We've got a guy in Luke McDermott was a walk-on, came in here and went about his business the way he should, has earned the right not only to earn a scholarship but a right to start. Made a lot of good plays here.

Their center, their quarterback, their kick punt returner, guys that walked on, it says a lot for the program there they have at Trinity. Our punter is a guy, some years he would have been a walk-on. We were just in need of a backup punter at the time and gave him a scholarship. He's become a really good player for us also.

Q. On DeVonte Parker choosing Louisville instead of Kentucky

COACH PHILLIPS: We don't worry about the ones that got away. We're going worry about him this week because he's got a chance to play. Outstanding talent. He's got two touchdowns and two big-time catches in both those touchdowns. It will be a huge challenge to stop him. He's big, he's strong, he's fast, and he has great ball skills.

Q. If Kentucky’s experience gives an edge

COACH PHILLIPS: We had four true freshmen playing on offense at one time or another (in the Central Michigan game). We had three on defense. They got a lot of true freshmen playing for them also. There is some experience, but they have some experience also, especially their defensive front. Their front seven is pretty extreme.

I think it kind of evens out. In a game like this, none of that stuff matters. You throw out any numbers, you can throw out age of a guy, throw out any statistics. This just will be an old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves and get after each other (type of game).

Q. You and Charlie have coached against each other so long. Is it safe to say there will be no surprises; you know what to expect from each other?

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, is it safe to say there won't be any surprises? I know his team is going to try to get after us, try to heat us up on defense, run the ball on offense, hit the play-action passes. The same with us. That's what we've been.

We've now changed our style of defense. We'll be a little bit more aggressive on defense. He'll have two games (of video) on us now. Our offense is the same we've been the last times we've competed against each other.

There won't be any surprises. Like I say, it's an in-state game that will be old-fashioned, no surprises, just two teams that will try to bloody each other's nose.

Q. Do you feel like the offense finally got its footing in the second half?

COACH PHILLIPS: We got a lot cleaner. Looked like we were playing some ball plays. Last week, I'm not sure it looked like a Chinese fire drill. This week we had some plays pretty clean. At times we threw and caught the ball well.

Like I say, our offensive line got on people, stayed on people. Our backs ran the creases. I thought we looked a lot better this past week.

Q. Question regarding a slow start.

COACH PHILLIPS: What's a slow start? Last week, we had a chance to go up 7-3. That's not a slow start. It's 3-3. Yes, we were down at halftime, but I don't know if you can call that a slow start. I think our guys got the momentum back in the second half and finished the game off. I thought, like I say, they score, we score. So I don't think it was a slow start.

We've got to match the intensity in this game. If they take the momentum, we got to fight and scratch to get it back on our side. There's going to be a lot of swings in momentum in a game like this. We just got to try to keep it a little bit longer than they do.

Q. You talked yesterday about seeing that effort out of Ridge Wilson. Is there a specific example you've seen in him?

COACH PHILLIPS: The fourth down, big stop. I actually saw Ridge Wilson strain into doing everything in his power, throwing every ounce of his 245 pounds into a guy, then releasing him as violent as you can release a person, then going as violent as you could to try to get the stop.

That was encouraging to see. Ridge has played really good. Again, he's been a guy the last two games that our defense has thought he's played good enough to win. So we expect him to play that way this week.

Q. In terms of using Morgan as a runner, is it be careful because you don't have a backup?

COACH PHILLIPS: We have to be a little careful. Morgan has to be careful and smart in how he runs also. He's a little bit of an upright runner when he does run. Can't take those type of shots.

Another thing, he's got to get underneath some of those tacklers also, get on the ground. I don't expect him, if it's third down and 10, like it was the other day, I don't expect him to get on the ground at eight, nine yards. I expect him to lower his shoulder like he did and get us the first down. But he's also got to be smart in how he runs the football.

Q. What was your reaction to Randall Cobb’s kickoff return?

COACH PHILLIPS: Didn't surprise anybody in that building. Didn't surprise anybody here. The only thing that surprised me of the whole play is he brought it out (from) eight yards deep. His athleticism, his ability to take it the distance did not surprise me. His balance did not surprise me. What surprised me is he did something that the coaches told him not to do, and that's not Randall. You saw the next one, what did he do, he kind of caught the ball and got to a knee in a hurry.

None of the plays he made surprise anybody. I was mentioning that to our guys. I was talking to Ronnie Sneed, What about Randall? He said it didn't surprise him, he knew what he could do.

Thank you. Appreciate it.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Kentucky Players

#46, Ronnie Sneed, LB

On his impressions of Louisville quarterback Will Stein …
“I think that he is pretty good. When you first look at him he is not very big in stature but he is all over the field making plays. He is going to give us some fits so we are going to have to be ready to play.”

On the difference between the game being played in Lexington instead of at Louisville …
“Thank goodness. Last year, we had to go down there and play on their field. It is always good having a rivalry game -- or any game really -- at home because you get that little advantage and that crowd behind you. It is going to be fun. We are going to have it at night and we are going to get to see all the new stuff with our stadium light up a little bit.”

#70 Stuart Hines, OL

On what the offensive line did better this week …
“We got a lot of stuff cleaned up and blocked a lot better offensively. We had a rough start in the first half, and had a rough time getting going. We couldn’t convert on third down, and in the second half we were able to show that we have some big-play ability. Hopefully we keep improving.”

On the Louisville rivalry …
“It is a game that you look forward to every year. You have to focus on every game you have, but you know that this game is coming, so you look forward to it a lot.”

On the importance of winning the game …
“I think it is a very important game for all of our seniors, and definitely the program. The thing is that you can’t count on history to win this game. We have to come out ready to play. I know they are going to be fired up.”

#40 Josh Clemons, RB

On what Joker Phillips told him that convinced him to come to Kentucky …
“I just thought he was a really good coach. I really enjoyed talking to him and it sounded like he knew what he was talking about, so I put my faith in him and I came to UK.”

On what he knows about the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry …
“I just know it is brutal. Everyone is talking a lot about this game and is really fired up.”

On what he saw from the line of scrimmage on the touchdown run …
“I didn’t know what I saw when I turned around to the backside. I just tried to stuff it up in there, and the guys didn’t wrap up. When I bounced back, I saw the hole, and I just took it. There were a lot of guys who got hands on me, and I just didn’t feel that pressure that they were going to pull me down.”