Joker Phillips Monday Press Conference Coverage

Sept. 26, 2011

Head Coach Joker Phillips

COACH PHILLIPS: First, the injury report. (Josh) Clemons will be questionable. He has a hamstring strain. (Martavius) Neloms will practice but will have non-contact probably Tuesday and Wednesday. (Gene) McCaskill is also questionable with a back injury. (Raymond) Sanders and (Collins) Ukwu are out.

And we'll cut Mark Crawford loose this week to play. So I'm really proud of the way he's handled the suspension, the time he's been off. He's done a lot of stuff on his own, extra work and conditioning, which you always worry about, especially a big guy that's not getting a lot of reps in practice with the ones. He does get to work with the scout team but doesn't get a lot of work, and has done a lot of extra work in getting himself conditioned, and we challenged him to be ready when the time came for him to play. And we think he's definitely done everything we've asked him to do, and he'll get some reps on Saturday.

Another big challenge for us, great team (LSU). I guess you guys in the media picked him to be No. 1 this week; why this week, wait another week to do it (laughing). But defensively, only given up 14 points, 53 yards rushing, similar to the team we went against last week. They were giving up 35. Fifth in total defense, they have got seven sacks, fifth in the conference tied with us. Turnover margin is the glaring thing that I think they have done as a team. Plus eight, they have only given up three on offense and taken away 11 on defense.

Offensively they are averaging 38 points, given up three sacks; third down conversion, 48 percent. Their special forces, they returned the kick last week (for a touchdown) and averaging 25 yards on kickoff returns. Big, good-looking (running) back, like a typical LSU back. Fullback who has gone from being a defensive lineman to now playing fullback. Really good player.

Quarterback is doing a good job of not turning the ball over and completing about 65 percent of his passes.

So another huge challenge for us, but we'll go back to work tomorrow. We got a chance to watch the film yesterday, we'll be off today, getting treatment and some guys are getting some extra work on their own.

But we'll go back to work tomorrow in preparing for these guys. Hey, we are playing the No. 1 team. So I'm sure you guys have questions.

Q. Re: adjusting to your top two tailbacks being out.

COACH PHILLIPS: We think that Clemons should -- we went without him last week, really. Clemons got only a couple of carries. And only played probably two series of the game. But we think we should get him back this week.

Q. You mentioned LSU is the No. 1 team. What would it mean for this program to beat the No. 1 team?

COACH PHILLIPS: Every year you play them, they are going to be one or two, maybe three. You guys always seem to pick them the last couple of (games) No. 1 when we play them.

Again, it will remain the same as it meant a few years ago when we played them when they were No. 1. It would be huge for our program if we could somehow put a together a clean game, both sides of the ball, which is what it will take to beat those guys.

Q. How much would it mean considering the last two games --

COACH PHILLIPS: It would mean that we have definitely improved. We have made some steady improvements on offense, and it would mean that we have improved a lot because it's going to take a lot of improvement, and we just have make that same type of improvement we made from game one to game two, game two to game three. But then play smarter. I think we have improved in techniques and assignment, now we have to improve in taking care of the football, the things that have nothing to do with talent. Those are the things we have got to improve this week.

Q. You said you watched the game film; what did you see?

COACH PHILLIPS: We didn't make as many mistakes, but our mistakes were very, very, very glaring, mistakes that we made this week. And those stick out. They are easy to see with the naked eye at the games. It's easy to see those type of mistakes. But there were not as many mistakes as we made the week prior.

Q. How much from the 2007 game can you use this year, can you use it at all?

COACH PHILLIPS: You can use it a little bit, but some of the guys on this team remember that game. But we are in a world that guys don't -- kids don't watch a lot of football. You know, they don't. Especially when they were younger, so I'm not sure if this freshman class remembers that far back. That was, what, four years ago, five years ago? I'm not sure they remember that far back.

We'll use it some with our present players. We have to use the same formula to beat them, and the formula was getting the ball back to the line of scrimmage, if you guys can remember, that's the thing -- guys, get it back to the line of scrimmage, let's punt the ball away, if we have to, but end the series with a kicking situation, whether it be a field goal, extra point or a punt.

We found a way late in the game to make some plays, to have a chance to upset them. And it will be the same way that we'll have to do it this week. We can't turn the ball over. We have to make some stops on defense, make them travel the whole field.

If you look at last week, they had the ball on our side of the field five times and they scored five times, and the other 11 series, they were 3-for-11. We have to make people travel the whole field. We have given them the short field way too many times and a lot of that has to do with turnovers.

I think last week, we moved the ball enough to try to flip the field. We have got enough first downs in each series to flip the field but the turnovers was the ones that gave them the short field.

Then when we gave them the long field, you can't give up big plays. Keep them snapping the football. They had a huge play when they go 99 yards.

Q. When you were successful (against Florida) -- what was your defense doing well?

COACH PHILLIPS: Keep them in front of you. That's what you've got to do. When they have to travel the long field, you have to keep them in front of you. You've just got to get them behind the count and we got them behind the count a couple of times, that now, it becomes hard -- I don't care what team you are.

It becomes really hard to make first and 20s. And a couple of times they had first and 20 that they had a couple holds calls or they have a procedure and first and 15, it becomes really hard to manage. That's the thing that our defense has got to do. Just don't give up the big play, okay. You can't give up the `GAP' play which is game-altering plays for us.

If we can just continue to get people to snap the ball, false start here and there, a holding here and there, creates long down situations, which become hard to manage, for anybody.

Q. Louisville, and then last week, going to the hurry-up offense, is that something you've thought about sneaking in the offense just throughout the game?

COACH PHILLIPS: We went no-huddle last week and we'll have to change. We would like to change the tempo. We have got a couple different tempos with no-huddle.

But also, when you are playing a team that likes to bring the pressure ... you want to recognize the call, recognize the defense and recognize the blitz and change things here and there and try to protect yourself or try to get you out of a bad play. Sometimes the hurry-up is not as good versus a team that brings the pressure late.

So we didn't hurry up as much last week. It's definitely something that we feel like we have to use, and it eats the clock. It eats the clock, and that's still -- I didn't really understand this until about 2007 how much the clock is really -- our time of possession, we scored, every scoring drive was about two minutes and something that year. But we ate up clock. We ate up a lot of clock in some other series that we didn't score. So I think it's really helpful in eating up clock and when the clock is running and we have got the ball that means the offense is on the sideline, which means our defense is on the sideline, and those guys probably have to run and attack more than anybody on the football team. And they are getting rested up.

Q. re: mental mistakes

COACH PHILLIPS: You can't allow it to be infectious. As soon as we are going along pretty good and then a mistake happens, and then another mistake happens and another mistake. We have a mistake and fumble the ball.

So the thing we can't allow those mistakes to be is, we can't allow them to snowball into another mistake.

Q. When you get down to third, fourth and fifth-team tailbacks playing, how difficult is that for pass protection?

COACH PHILLIPS: That's the hardest thing for a young back to be able to get. That's usually the last thing they get, because you're not asked to do that in high school. Most of their routes, they are free releasing. They don't have to worry about any linebacker coming. We have to try to protect the quarterback.

We have some routes that he's a free releaser, meaning don't have to worry about any protections, but most of our protections they are involved in, and that becomes really tough for some of the young backs. That's why we saw CoShik Williams in two weeks ago when we were in a two-minute situation. Not that Josh Clemons can't handle it, but some of the stuff is a little over his head right now. I think he'll get it in time. He gets most of it, but sometimes it becomes a little confusing for (him) even though he is a talented guy that's a really focused guy. So that comes into play in the passing game.

Q. You have gone into that stadium as a young player, I believe but I don't know if any of the team have been in there --

COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know if any of our guys have been in there. I went in there was a player and as a coach and came away successful.

You can expect a loud, hostile crowd. I can remember Coach (Jerry) Claiborne taking us to walk the field, walk the stadium prior to the '83 game when we did play there and won. And Jerry Eisaman who was the offensive coordinator brought the offense in the middle of the field and he had won as a player, from Kentucky; and just explaining to us the atmosphere, how the atmosphere would be, how it's going to be loud, it's going to be hostile, you're going to be called every name under the sun except for your God-given name.

He asked us just to smell the popcorn, smell the grass and all those things that come with being on the college football field. Those things helped us mentally in understanding and preparing ourselves for what was about to happen the next day and to give us an opportunity to go in there and win, because we was prepared. None of the things shocked us.

I thought about that with the early game. I think it's a little bit different. We played at night

and we had a lot of time during the day, and we went over there, but I will tell them some of the things Coach Eisaman reminded us of, and you have to try to block those things out, you do. You have to try to block those things out and I think we did a good job in '83 and we'll need to do a good job this year, also.

Q. Is that a help to you? I know you don't have to sit around --

COACH PHILLIPS: I like the fact that we don't have to sit around the hotel. I like the fact, playing an early game, we have been an early practice team for the last seven, eight years, and hopefully that helps.

But you know, when the whistle blows, you can throw out all that stuff. We'll try to use that mentally but when the whistle blows, you can throw out all that stuff and it's you against me and that's the attitude that we have to take also.

Q. What has been done to push the program forward, if you had a wish list, what things would you still see that need to get done in the relatively near future?

COACH PHILLIPS: That's pretty creative how you said it this time. (Laughter).

One thing we have done, we got back here in 2003 and there was some things that we thought need to get done, and one thing we want to do was take care of the players.

Anybody on the outside doesn't see the things we have done for the players, and we want to take care of our present players and that's the two locker rooms that we built, the three new surfaces on our practice field and we have done a good job at that.

We have replaced the surface in the indoor (field house). (We have new) meeting rooms and I'm not sure if you guys have got a chance to see them, now state-of-the-art and got theatre-style, done the same thing with our breakout (position meeting) rooms, also. So we have done some things that the outsiders don't get a chance to see.

So we wanted to take care of our present players first. Now, there's some things we have to do, and that's take care of the fans, we have started that. We recognize that and we have started that with the video boards and those things, and now you know we have got plans, also. We have been talking about renovating the stadium.

We have done the things we need to do to continue to grow this program. We have had a great week in recruiting this week, and recruits come to our campus, you never hear them saying we don't have good facilities. You never hear that. Usually they are saying they like the facilities.

So we have got good working facilities for the players. We recognize that we have got to do some things for the fans to see. But what we have done $14 million worth of things to help our present players; and that said, it doesn't always show up outside. But we have done some things, some initial things that we need to do. We talked about the recruiting room and the recruiting room is really just to house recruits before the game and have a facility we can serve meals.

We have adjusted some things. We have created a room up in the field house where I get a chance to visit with recruits, and it's plush and I went in there and was like, wow, these guys have done a great job in less than a week, week and a half. We have been creative in the way that we have had to spruce up our indoor facilities where the meals are served so. We have done some things to try to put the "wow" factor in this thing.

And we are football coaches and you have to be able to adjust and we feel like we have done a good job of adjusting to what we have. And again, you never hear recruits leave here saying, they don't have good facilities.

Q. Is it a never-ending process in today's environment?

COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely. It's like mowing a 100-acre field, as soon as you get it mowed, you mow it again. As soon as we have done the facilities, the things that we have done over, in a couple of years, we'll have to do some other things to do it.

Again, it's never ending. And I've been to a lot of schools, and none compares to this place here, the facilities. I know Notre Dame that they have done some things since I left, Cincinnati has done some things, but we have done some things here, also.

Q. re: conference realignment and should Kentucky stay in the SEC

COACH PHILLIPS: I don't think it's -- it's not my job or my deal to be thinking about, but I think we are in a good situation right here where we are.

Q. You've said often when we ask you about realignment, and A&M is officially in the league now, what's your reaction to that?

COACH PHILLIPS: Welcome them. I think it's a fine institution. Does nothing but help this league get even stronger, and we'll wait for the schedule to come out and play who comes up on our schedule.

Q. How might that affect you in recruiting?

COACH PHILLIPS: People say, well, it will give you a chance to get into Texas. South Carolina never gave us a chance to get into South Carolina until I went down there. We have never gotten into Arkansas. I know there's more players in Texas, so we'll take a look at it and see how much interest we have.

In the past, there's not a lot of kids in the SEC from Texas. One school that does have them, and that's the one we are about to play, Arkansas, has a few, not a lot, because they are closer.

But I don't know how much it will affect us recruiting down there. You know, what we have got to do is do a better job in the Southeastern Conference area schools, got to get up north a little bit in the states that border us.

Q. re: if playing on the road can be something to pull a team together

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, I think it's something to use at times. You know, we used that Morgan's freshman year, went on the road and won three SEC games. Our kids felt that way a little bit. We go to Auburn, win. They go to Vanderbilt and win, they go to Georgia and win, and that had a lot to do with it.

We have got to get this program to where that's not a factor. We want to win home. We have to take care of Commonwealth Stadium, and we have not done a good job this year of taking care of Commonwealth Stadium. This should be a huge advantage for us to be at home and we have not used it to our advantage.

#31- Mikie Benton, Safety

On what the team knows about LSU going into the game this Saturday ...
“We haven’t watched film on them yet but we are confident that the coaches are doing everything they can to get the best game plan together to make plays and capitalize on it.”

On how the team feels about being an underdog going on the road this week ...
“We just don’t pay any attention to that.  If that was the case we wouldn’t even go down there and play the game.  You have to prepare well for it and go in and play the game.”

On the mood of the team at this point in the season ...
“We are still confident.  Even though we have lost two games we still have eight more to go and just have to take it one game at a time.  This can easily be turned around if we remain confident and ready to drive for it.”

#52 - Billy Joe Murphy - Offensive Tackle

On being a starter again...
“It feels good to get back. It was really frustrating to sit out considering that I’ve never missed a game before. I grew up playing three sports and never missed a game. That was very frustrating for me to see everybody else out there working hard.”

On if it is easier or tougher to bounce back...
“It’s a little bit of both. You stay away from your technique and development for two weeks so it’s a little bit harder considering that. You want to be back so badly and the drive is always up so it’s really easy to go out and work hard.”

On if it is easier or tougher to bounce back as a team...
“It’s definitely tougher. At the same time, we have a bigger challenge this week. It’s the number one team in the country and what an opportunity we have to play the number one in the country at their place. That’s the way we have to approach it. We have to put Florida behind us and learn from it.”