Wildcats Continue to Improve, Prepare for Gators

Sept. 21, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A gloomy and rainy morning in Lexington moved the University of Kentucky football team indoors to the Nutter Field House for practice Wednesday, however, it did not appear to dampen UK’s preparation for No. 15 Florida.

UK head coach Joker Phillips was positive toward his team when meeting with the media after practice, saying the Wildcats improved as a team during the practice and that although he was pleased with Tuesday’s practice, Wednesday’s was even better. Phillips said he expects even more improvement in practice Thursday.

Much of the talk after practice was how the offensive line is progressing after having at least one starter out in every game this season due to injury as all five starters have been injured at some point since preseason practice began in August. Phillips announced Tuesday that center Matt Smith, who did not start against Louisville because of an ankle injury, tackle Billy Joe Murphy, who has missed UK’s last two games after suffering an injury in the opener against WKU, and guard Larry Warford, who played with an injured ankle late in the game against Louisville, all practiced and looked good.

Although the offensive line has had virtually no time to jell together as unit since the beginning of fall camp because of the injuries, Phillips is not willing to use that as an excuse.

“It’s hard to tell that in two practices,” Phillips said when asked if the offensive line has looked better in practice this week compared to weeks past because everyone is getting healthier. “I’m not saying that’s the excuse. We have got to get them better or we have to keep going the way we are and pick up guys. The guys we have (have had) a lot of success. We have to get them back to playing at that type of level.”

Phillips didn’t come out and name his starting offensive line for Saturday’s matchup with the highly ranked Gators, but he did say he is leaning towards starting true freshman Darrian Miller at right tackle, who has started the last two games in place of Murphy. Phillips also said Smith will likely get his first start of the season at center instead of Jake Lanefski, who has started in Smith’s place the first three games.

“We will probably start the pup (Miller),” Phillips said. “We just feel like it is easier to bring Billy Joe off the bench than it is to bring the freshman off the bench. We will start the freshman and then bring Billy Joe in. Same thing with the center position, we will probably start Matt and then bring Lanefski in some in the center position. We will probably play seven guys.”

Kentucky has its final practice Thursday before a small walk-through practice on Friday.

Student-Athletes to Collect Donations During Florida Tailgate on Saturday: This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Southeastern Conference “Together We CAN Drive” and to commemorate the occasion, student-athletes across the SEC are trying to reach 500,000 pounds in food and donations.  This Saturday when Kentucky takes on Florida, more than 100 student-athletes will be collecting donations from tailgating fans between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET. The student-athletes will be split into teams of two and will cover different areas of the parking lot. All money collected will go to God's Pantry to feed.

UK Coaching Staff to Take Part in Coach for the Cure: The AFCA will hold its fourth-annual Coach to Cure MD effort this weekend. Kentucky is one of more than 100 FBS schools whose coaches will be wearing a Coach to Cure MD patch to raise awareness and funding for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research. Fans are encouraged to donate online at www.CoachtoCureMD.org  or donate $5 by texting CURE to 90999.