Quotes and Video of Monday Football Press Conference

Sept. 13, 2010

Video: Players discuss upcoming Akron game

Head Coach Joker Phillips

Transcript from ASAP Sports

COACH PHILLIPS: Injuries, (Nick) Melillo is questionable this week. Getting better but not quite there yet. Tai Smith, the same. He's a little bit better, but whether or not he will be able to play this week is yet to be determined. Got a couple guys that are probable. Derrick Locke elbow, Randall Burden, back, Danny Trevathan has a hip, and Donald Russell has an ankle. Should get (Martavius) Neloms back on Tuesday. Think there's a good chance of getting Dakotah Tyler back.

Looking at the tape, defensively I thought we smothered them after the first series in the first half. As I went and looked at the game, they were going backwards, which is what you want your defense to do to an offensive team. We had 13 yards in the second drive. Had 4 and an interception on the third drive. Had zero on the fourth. Had minus 10 on the fifth. Plus 15 on the sixth drive. A total of 95 yards, 22 plays in the first half.

I think we're playing dominant defense up until the second half. I think our kids relaxed (in the second half). That cannot happen. You definitely can't give up 180 something yards to one rusher. In the second half, they had two 80-yard drives. I think our defense relaxed and was looking for the next one. Those are things we can't do.

Offensively I liked our balance, big plays. Had way too many missed assignments. Special forces, the thing that I saw on the video is we got to kick the ball better. I think our return games are starting to come. We're getting them started. We got two dynamic returners. We're starting to get them started in some of the returns.

As we continue to get big returns, you'll see people kicking away from those guys, sky kicking, those things, kicking away in the punt. You'll continue to see that.

The thing we have to do is cover kicks better. The kick that they returned for a touchdown, we got to kick the ball better first, then we got to cover better. The one that they scored, we had two missed tackles on the 12 yard line, had a lot of young guys out there. One of the reasons why we had those young guys out there was because of injuries.

You know, we're trying to save some of the guys, the starters, because they didn't have backups. Had like four freshmen on the kick cover team. Had a couple guys that hadn't played a lot. Wasn't any starter out there.

For us to be good on special teams, we got to start putting some of our starters out there, which means we got to get some of these injured guys back. There were only two DBs on that team. Two linebackers that were on the kick cover team. We got to get more guys that are used to tackling. Way too many wide receivers, way too many running backs that aren't used to tackling. So we got to get more DBs and more linebackers covering.

With that, I'll open it up (for questions).

Q. Akron had a couple guys rushed for a hundred yards. What kind of test are they?

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, they'll be a big test for us. I know their line coach and coordinator are excellent coaches, John Latina, Mitch Browning, both excellent line coaches. Latina now coaches the running backs. They know how the run the football. Mitch Browning and I were together at Minnesota where every year we led the league in rushing. He was at Tennessee last year, coaching their offensive line.

He understands how to run the football, which has been one of the things that we need to get better at, stopping the run.

We just got to play for 60 minutes. We can't have any letups, can't give up any big plays, got to be sound, gap sound. We can't run under blocks. We run under a block on the perimeter and a guy goes 59 yards untouched. We can't do that. Got to force the ball back to the pursuit.

We go around under a block, he gets out. Those things can't happen. There are some talented backs out there. Akron will have some talented people also.

Q. The players felt the biggest problem was poor tackling. Considering how physical you are, are you surprised they haven't tackled better?

COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, I am. A lot of it had to do we got some young guys trying to tackle, especially some new guys also. A couple of them are beat up with Mychal Bailey, a new guy. Mychal, one thing he had done in the pre-season is tackle. I don't know if he's beat up. But one thing he's not doing, he's not pulling the trigger, what we call, going and attacking people. We're not wrapping it up. We're hitting way too high. Guys are carrying us for extra yardage.

We have to wrap up. We got to gang tackle also. Today's backs are squatty, thick-legged. It's hard to get your arms around them sometimes. We got to gang tackle once we get them wrapped up. That's not happening either.

Q. Defensively do you feel like you got better?

COACH PHILLIPS: I did, you know. You have the numbers from the first six drives, so I did feel like we got better.

Like I say, we gave up some big plays in the second half. Those are the things that are discouraging that our guys are relaxing. That's the thing we talked about at halftime: Let's show how mature this football team has become in a week. We let up. We didn't keep the pressure on. After the first series, the pressure was on. Our guys on defense played really fast.

I'm watching the film. When you first start watching the film, you're a little down because you have a 180-something-yard rusher, they score 28 points on you, then you start looking. Wow, these guys are playing, playing fast, playing hard, gang tackling. In the second half, I think there was a huge letup. A lot of that has to do with the way the game's going. They see it in hand. We want a mature team, which is what we talked about wanting to be.

Q. Are teams running away from DeQuin (Evans) more?

COACH PHILLIPS: They're not doing anything different. Defensive linemen do not make a lot of tackles. Corey Peters had 56 tackles, right, something like that last year, 56 tackles. Defensive linemen just don't make a lot of tackles. He's made some plays, but he's not showing up as much as we like in the past game.

In the box scores, you look at the box scores, not a lot of defensive linemen making tackles. But he will make plays for us before the year's up, a lot of plays, more than 56, I would think.

And Corey made 56 tackles, and he was a dominant player. But, like I say, you think those guys make plays. The guys have to make the plays. A lot of times those guys hold the gap, turned the ball back inside, turned the ball into the defensive linemen and also to the linebackers, okay?

Q. Is he getting any more attention, though?

COACH PHILLIPS: No, he's not getting any more attention. He's doing his job. He's doing his job by turning plays in when he needs to. He hasn't been out of place. Just hasn't made any plays.

Q. Would you say stopping the run is the number one problem on this football team?

COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely, stopping the run. On kicks, too, I consider that stopping the run. Once the guy has the ball in his hand, it's no longer a kick, it's a running play. We have to stop that also. We've given up big runs. Actually, gave up another two big runs on the kickoff return this past week. That's four in two weeks. We got to stop the run in that area also.

Q. They said the way the offense has developed, they feel they can come out and score on any team on the schedule. Do you feel that way?

COACH PHILLIPS: I hope they're right. We'll need to (laughter).

I think it's helped in confidence. I'm glad they saying that. We'll see when the time comes. But I really like their confidence. That's what this offense has been lacking, especially in the passing game, is confidence, especially at the wide receiver position.

Glad to hear them saying that.

Q. Some of your guys say that Hartline is a different player in the huddle now. Can you see that?

COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, you can see he has the weight off his shoulders, number one. The competition that he had at quarterback, he had stronger competition with those two young, talented guys. You could see once it was announced that Mike accepted even a bigger role in leading.

Right now he has as much command of the ball as any quarterback I've ever been around. He's seeing what's going on. He's been very accurate, especially on the deep balls.

On the touchdown pass to Randall, we had been trying to get our quarterbacks to put more air under the balls, 'cause there's more room for error, gives us a chance to adjust at the wide receiver position. It was a perfect (throw) as far as how much air and distance he put on it. I think that was probably the best throw I've seen around here in a long time.

Q. How important was it that Andre could put the ball out and trust guys to make plays? How is that coming along with Mike?

COACH PHILLIPS: That was very important. In high school, I've told people, this is open (holds up space between hands). Might be three yards. Say it's three yards. In college, this is open (lesser space between hands). In the NFL, that's open (lesser space between hands), okay? Now Mike is starting to trust that this is open, this much separation is open. Give a guy a chance. Just got to throw it away from the defensive back. He's trusting that.

When you are 6'4", 6'5", you have a 5'8" defensive back on you, that's open. We expect Chris (Matthews) to go up and take it. We expect La'Rod (King) to go up and take it. If you have a small guy versus a big guy, we expect those guys to go up and take the ball.

It's a rebound. We ought to be able to out-rebound a 5'8" guy every time.

Q. Backup quarterbacks, where is that at? How is that coming along?

COACH PHILLIPS: We're not redshirting anybody, that's for sure. It will be a feel thing, what we think we need at that given time of the game, of who goes in first.

We rotate them in different drills, who goes in first on seven-on-seven. Morgan might go in. 11-on-11, Moss might be the first guy going in. We have to give those guys as close as we can equal reps and get both of them ready for what the situation calls for, who we want to go with.

Q. How much deeper is the playbook this year compared to what you were able to do last year with Mike’s injury? More flexible?

COACH PHILLIPS: We had everything. You feel comfortable in calling it, you know. Especially once Mike went down, we became very limited in what we could call because of protection. You had a freshman quarterback, (learning to) understand the protections. I mean, we became very limited.

But we've added a couple wrinkles in trying to get play-action things. I think that was the one we got sacked on, though. That didn't work out. But, I mean, we got a lot of the same stuff we've had in the past.

Q. Regarding the development of Matt Roark at receiver.

COACH PHILLIPS: One thing Matt is doing for us, he's one of the guys playing well on special teams. He was the special teams player of the week for us. He's caught four or five passes I think. Three of those have been on the big plays that he's made on scrambles. That's what I'm proud to see him do. He hasn't gotten open in the initial route. But the thing he's done, he's done well once the play breaks down and the quarterback gets out of the pocket. He's made three huge plays for us on scramble drills.

I'd like to see him get open a little more on his initial route, but he's making plays. That does nothing but help his confidence also. I mean, we think he's got a chance to be a weapon, a huge weapon, for us before the season's over, though.

Q. Question regarding La'Rod King and Chris Matthews feeling more comfortable and able to be more aggressive after a year of playing experience.

COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely helps. Definitely helps. Your business, too. You're better this year than you were last year, I hope. I hope I'm better next year than I am this year in this business.

Those guys are doing a good job. They understand the offense. Chris, last year his first step off the ball would be a hesitation step to see what was going on. Do I have to break this route off? Are they blitzing? This year, we helped him some, too, by getting into some different protections that he doesn't have to worry about seeing blitzers come, seeing if it's coming. We helped him a little bit. But we still have those protections in that he has to find some of the blitzes also.

But he's now being able to run off the ball instead of first step hesitation step, then, okay, this is what they doing. He's playing a lot faster.

La'Rod, mentally he's always understood our offense a little bit better than most freshmen that we've had. But what's helped him is his strength. He's gotten a lot stronger, he's gotten faster. So he's playing faster than he was. He's playing a lot more physical also. He's doing a really good job of blocking the perimeter for us.

What a difference a year makes. Same thing, we felt Gene McCaskill was getting better every year. You see his improvement.

Q. Question regarding offensive tackles and their performance.

COACH PHILLIPS: We gave up a sack last week, but it wasn't an offensive linemen. One of our backs kind of stumbled, actually lunged at the defensive guy, gave up a sack. I like that our guys haven't given up any sacks. I really like we have captured the corner. We really captured the corner. First week I got some people asking, Why don't we give (Derrick) Locke the ball on outside? That's where most of his yards have gone. We've captured the edge with our tackles and our tight ends, your guy, Jordan Aumiller. I thought I would bring that up, okay, before you did this week (laughter). He's caught some big ones. What are you talking about (laughter).

You remember the year I said Jacob (Tamme) would be the leading receiver? I really thought that. You know the reason why he wasn't? Huh? Because Stevie Johnson caught 73.

But Jordan Aumiller is doing a really good job. Our offensive line and tight ends are doing a really good job of capturing the edge on defenses, which has given us a chance. They're doing it in a hurry. We are fast-moving up front, try to capture it as quickly as we possibly can, getting Locke on the perimeter. Then you have a fullback to clean up. He's been a pretty good clean-up guy (Moncell Allen).

Q. What will you do as a staff to keep that letdown in the second half from happening (in this week’s game)?

COACH PHILLIPS: We got to show the (team) this past week of scores. There were four or five 1AA teams that beat Division I teams. We got to show them those types of things. We have

to show them the second half. We have to show them the first half of the game they played. We have to show them the six series (in the first half), how they do when their heads are in the game.

We can smother people. We want to be a defense that smothers people. We smothered this team in the first half, other than the first half.

Q. You mentioned no redshirts. Why not try to save that as long as you can?

COACH PHILLIPS: It's a long season. I mean, we had to make a decision who to go in the game. We just felt like this is the week that we got up so decided to play them both.

It's hard to put a redshirt on a guy. One of the things I don't like redshirts for is a guy gets hurt and then after his redshirt year, you lost two years. I'm really not into the redshirting of guys that can help us win.

Newton can help us win. He's going to have to help us win down the road sometime. Similar to Mister Cobble. You redshirt Mister Cobble, last year Mister Cobble could have helped us, he could have. Now (his situation) it's similar (to) an injury. Now we lose him for two years.

I'm really not into redshirting guys that can help you. Morgan can help us win a game.

Q. When you have guys that are maybe not tackling as well as you'd like, do you change anything during practice? Do you change anything?

COACH PHILLIPS: No, we won't change anything. We have to have more tackling drills. Our practice format will be the same. We'll still continue to thud. But we have to have tackling drills against down-the-line scout guys.

The thing that I like that we're doing, and we'll do more of it, our ones are practicing more with our twos instead of scout teams, both sides of the ball. I think that will help us as we get more into it. We got to do more of that, practicing against faster people and better people.

Q. How are Morgan and Ryan doing mentally this point in the season as far as handling everything, trying to develop?

COACH PHILLIPS: I try to look at how guys are reacting on the sideline. It's hard sometimes to come to practice when you know you're not going to play. It's hard, no question about that. It's human nature.

But I've looked at them even in practice. They've been upbeat. You see them on the sideline. They all into it. They all giving Mike information they've seen. They all talking to Coach (Randy) Sanders on the headset. I think they've been great.

Q. How about Tee Martin on your staff?

COACH PHILLIPS: He's the best one we've got as far as knowing the dang Facebook stuff (laughter). He is. He's great. I mean, guys can relate to those guys. He's really known in the South.

The thing when we hired him, I worried about how tough he would be on the kids. I get up one morning this summer. Lo and behold, he's got two or three of them from missing classes at 5 in the morning. I was like, ‘We got the right guy, total package.’

He's young, energetic, got great knowledge of the game. Really he's addressed that for us.

Q. Is the run game Akron's strength?

COACH PHILLIPS: Yes. I think their offensive line is their strength, both in the running game and in the passing game. Their offensive line, we were watching it yesterday, Coach Turner and I both worked with the O-line coach at Minnesota. Looks like one of his typical teams: real aggressive, fly off the ball, really know how to outnumber you, stick and stay on blocks. We've got to do a really good job this week.

Q. Question regarding La'Rod King noticing the team is a little more together than last year.

COACH PHILLIPS: I think they were a little bit more together than last year's team. I think this year's team is starting to come together now. Success helps that, too. Especially on offense, they're starting to have some success, they're helping each other out with different things.

But I think that's important. It's big of him, that shows his maturity. La'Rod King, all he wants to do is get better, help his team get better.

Q. Have you heard that you are the first UK coach since Bear Bryant to start his career 2-0?

COACH PHILLIPS: Bear Bryant, I've heard it, yeah.

Q. How does that sound?

COACH PHILLIPS: Sounds good. Joker and Bear (laughter).

Player Quotes:

#96, Collins Ukwu, DE, So.

On if he can point his finger on why the defense has given up some big rushing plays the first two games …

 “It’s really missing tackles. That’s really the main thing, not wrapping up at all. Our coaches have told us about this. One of the things we need to improve on, and like I said, that one thing we are looking to improve on this week.”

On what he and some of the other guys have been talking about to try to get better …

 “(We have just been talking about) stopping the run. I mean, that is something that Coach Turner has been emphasizing for us to be a great defense that’s what you have to do. We haven’t even hit SEC play yet. That is just something we are going to have to do.”

On DeQuin Evans’ and his performance in the first two games …

“I think he is pretty effective. A lot of his plays were called back because of flags and different penalties. If you really watch film he is either taking on two blocks or help the linebacker to get the tackle. He is definably making a presence in our defense, but I think he is going to start to make more plays.”

On if he looks at this game as the last chance before SEC play to get things fixed, defensively …

 “You can say that but we were saying that after the Louisville game coming to Western Kentucky.  That’s one thing we were looking to do, to stop the run and we didn’t do it last week so now this is definitely the week because the scouting report says that they have two running backs to rush 100 yards (last week) and the quarterback.”

#14, Anthony Mosley, Jr., CB

 On if Akron is the last chance to get the defensive kinks worked out before SEC play …

“Not necessarily. We have to stop the run every time, where we are going into SEC play or it’s a non-conference game. This game will be big for us to set an example on what we can do before the SEC.”

On what the corners can do to help stop the run …

“The biggest thing that we do is try to communicate if we see a wide receiver that is off the ball and not on the tight end side. We try to communicate that or if we see a backfield set (that we think leads more towards a running play) we can alert them and say, ‘Hey, this play could happen,’ and that all comes with film studying. What I try to do is see the backfield and see if there is any clue as to what could possibly happen. If I see it, then I need to echo it through the defense that it could be this play or that play. As long as we communicate (we will be fine). We know that their (linemen) hands are down in the dirt and they can’t really see what is going on. I try to do that for them.”

On if he agrees with defensive end Collins Ukwu that most of the problem is missed tackles …

“It is a lot of things when we watch the film. Sometimes it is a really good play on our part, where we might have them down in the backfield. There was a play on Saturday, where we had them hit at five yards gained but he pushed us for about 10 more yards. It is about getting them down and being sure when we have a tackle and getting everybody to rally to the ball.”

On Akron having some guys that can really rush the ball well …

“I think that it is an extremely good test for us. Western Kentucky University had a very good back that I think was SEC caliber in a lot of different aspects. I am aware that Akron had two backs that rushed for 100 yards (last week). I think that it is a good test for us to see if we can stop the run consistently. As I said before, a 60-minute play is one of the biggest things that we have to do. The third quarter has kind of been a down quarter for us historically but we have been good in the first two quarters. We have to come out after halftime and do a good job of setting down the run.”

#8, Chris Matthews, WR, Sr.

On how he thought UK played overall vs. WKU …

“I thought that our offense was really efficient.  It’s early on in the season, and I feel the more games that we will play, the more efficient we will be running and passing the ball.”

On Hartline’s confidence …

“Mike is doing a lot better than he did last year. He is on another level from everybody else. His thinking ability and his passing game are doing a lot better. He has taken more initiative in the huddle. And that’s how it should be, the quarterback is supposed to be the leader of the team, because he is the guy that we all depend on.”

#66, Chandler Burden, OT, Jr.

On the switch to offensive line from defensive end …

“I love playing offensive line. It’s a better position for me. I’m better at it. Defense is more fun, I always loved going after the quarterback.”

On why he thinks he is a better offensive lineman than defensive lineman …

“That’s just my natural position. I can play defensive end. I’m a good defensive end, but not a great defensive end. And I’m working on being a great offensive tackle.”

#16, La’Rod King, WR, So.

On starting 2-0 this season …

“It does make me feel good, but it is still far from over. We have Akron coming up next so we just have to prepare this week and have total focus like we did last week.“

On how his game has changed from last year …

“My game has changed tremendously. I’m more focused now. I know what to do. Coach Tee Martin has my fundamentals down. Coach Joker (Phillips) knows what he is doing as a head coach so that brings more confidence to the offense. Overall positive things are going on with every single player. I’m mature as a player now. Coach trusts me and Mike (Hartline) trusts me and I trust him, so you dedicate yourself and lay it all on the line. That’s what you have to do to win. Coach Joker (Phillips) works with us everyday. If you can’t block you can’t play. That’s his rule.”

On how trust from his teammates and coaches makes him feel…

“It gives me the confidence to go out there and play 100 percent and know that if I make a mistake I still have somebody that can back me up.  Our team chemistry just makes everything come together.”

On if the receivers are better or if Hartline is better or a combination of both…

“A combination of both. Randall (Cobb) and Chris (Matthews) are two of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen in my life, so working with them is like the 1990 Bulls. Chris and Randall are Jordan and we are the rest of the players. You are only as good as your best player and they help each person out, even the walk-ons. We are working with them after practice and we are all working to try to get better.”

On if there is competition between receivers…

“Definitely, if Chris (Matthews) is running 100 percent and I’m running 90 percent, I’m going to work harder. Randall is the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. He outworks Chris sometimes. It’s a tremendous change from last year. For me, last year was just a learning process. I was just sitting back watching Randall and watching Chris and how hard they work and seeing where the team was going.”