Joker Phillips Monday Press Conference Coverage

Oct. 17, 2011

Head Coach Joker Phillips

COACH PHILLIPS: First, I would like to say again, I appreciate Jacob Lewellen and the things he's gone for this program and while he's been in this program. It's not while he's been in this program; he's always done those things, and he's got good upbringing and represents this program the right way.

Injury report: Collins Ukwu, had some swelling yesterday after going into swim-ex, he will probably be another week, he's questionable for this week and real doubtful I would say. Probably another week before he has an opportunity to get back on the field.

Jordan Aumiller has a hamstring that he'll probably practice, we are looking at Wednesday for him to practice. Matt Roark will be limited tomorrow but should be back on the field after suffering a hamstring also. Jabari Johnson will probably be out for the season. He is already being red-shirted, he's having some struggles with his shoulders and we'll have to go back in and fix another problem with his shoulder, so he's out for the season for sure.

And Stuart Hines, I don't know if he was in a cast today but he's practicing in a cast and he should be fine.

You know, we have got another challenge. We had a week open, not off. We got some good work on Tuesday, Wednesday, scrimmage on Thursday. More of a semi-Tuesday practice yesterday. Yesterday was more ones versus twos, a lot of individual work. And then also, introducing even more of the Jacksonville State plan.

We got a chance to watch them yesterday versus Austin Peay and (they’re) a really good football team, 5-1, ranked in the Top-10 in the championship subdivision. Went to to Ole Miss last year and beat Ole Miss. The quarterback is a dual (threat) guy that is completing 59 percent of his passes. (He throws to) a lot of receivers, and doing a good job in the running game. Doing a lot of zone read stuff where the end commits to the zone play, he's the guy that can pull up and hurt you on the perimeter.

(Washaun) Ealey, who transferred from Georgia, and that's the thing, teams look different year-to-year and week-to-week early in the season because they are now starting to get some guys that have transferred in and now starting to get some chemistry with them and Ealey, who played at Georgia last year, you are starting to see him show up on some of the later film a lot more.

Defensively, they do a good job of turning the football over. Last week, the defense was responsible for 21 points, three turnovers for touchdowns, two pick six and a fumble recovery and another interception they took back to the five-yard line, which I think they got a field goal out of. So, 24 points that this team was responsible for on defense, and you have got a veteran coach (Jack Crowe) that's done an outstanding job with the program.

So, another challenge for us. We are excited about it. We feel like we got better. How much better, we'll get to find out this Saturday.

Q. Is there anything that tells you that they have their minds in the right place for the second half of the season?

COACH PHILLIPS: There's no question our minds are in the right place. Our kids like playing. They like practicing. I'm sure when you guys close your (car) door and walk from the parking lot to the (interview area) you hear; it's an energetic, upbeat practice. You're hearing a lot of chatter and a lot of guys having fun. So we know our kids are having fun. We have to pay more attention to the details, to the little things.

And you know, I just want to see us play clean, play as clean as we possibly can. And again, show some improvement, over these next two weeks, the last two weeks that we've had.

Q. (Re: Mitch Barnhart’s comments on Friday confirming that the coaching staff is confirmed for next season.)

COACH PHILLIPS: Talk about it? I know that it's a surprise to many, but Mitch and I have communicated it and it was not a surprise to us. We feel like we are doing the right things and we just want to go ahead and get started on doing what we are doing in these last six weeks. A lot of football to be played and we are excited about playing it and excited about the statement that Mitch made.

Q. In terms of soul searching last week, what did you find last week and what do you think the players found?

COACH PHILLIPS: I found that there was a couple real good players in the 2013 class in Kentucky. Had a chance to go out and recruit players (during the open date weekend)

Also found as I went into schools, there's a lot of people with us. There's a lot of people with us. As far as this football team, we did soul-searching. I told you guys that, we as football coaches we have to be counselors, we have to be teachers, we have to be fathers, we have to be mothers even sometimes, away from home.

And you know, the thing we did, we tried to sit down with our players individually and find out where their minds are. And all of our kids for the most part, their minds are with us. We found out that we have got a chance. We have got a chance. We just have to line it up, play with confidence, play clean and we'll be fine.

So, you know, but I found out a lot of things. You find out about yourself, too. I had to look into myself and I understand, I'm ready for this job. I'm fine with what -- the direction of the program. I think that we have all of the right things. We just have to get them headed in the right direction. We are doing the right things, though. You start trying to search for different ways of doing things, and there's nothing wrong with the way we are doing things.

We just have to try to do the things we are doing better.

Q. Do you see the players with a little bit more pep in their steps after the open date.

COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely. You get two days off in this business, and it's refreshing. Especially when you go through a grueling SEC schedule. We played the number 15 (Florida), 1 (LSU), and I think they might be in the Top-10 now, the last team we played (South Carolina). There's a lot of teams that would have been 0-3 after that stretch, a lot of teams.

Q. Why do you think at this point in the season you are still having trouble improving?

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, you can improve and play a team that's playing at a really, really high level and don't look like you have some improvements.

We have improved at some things. Our offensive line has played a lot better than they did the first two weeks. We can say, we threw the ball a little bit better early in the season. We can say we are not throwing the ball as well (now). We are playing a little bit better competition, too. I shouldn't say a little bit; a lot better competition. Some really good defenses.

Our defense, I think it's definitely improved. It's hard to say it -- but the numbers, why? They are doing some things good. Special teams, we are covering kicks, huge emphasis we put on this off-season. We are not returning kicks, but we expect to return them and we put a huge emphasis on that this past week in scrimmages. In the return game (we) put some of the young guys (in the scrimmages) and tried to find out who can cover for us for the future.

So we had some really good competition in those. We feel like Daylen Hall is the guy now (who can help us), especially in the return game. He's a guy that we found, we are running out of returners, in the South Carolina game, put him in there and the guy goes out and makes a couple of plays and (in) a scrimmage last week and made a couple more plays. So he's a guy that has to try to help.

So, getting better. It might not show up, some of the improvements, but there are some things that we have got to get even better at to be successful the second half of the season.

Q. You had made mention of examining personnel and schemes that are not even in the playbook -- are you expecting some?

COACH PHILLIPS: There will be some. There will be some schemes that we will try to install and we have already installed our offense and defense, also and the special teams area.

So like I say, we had to examine everything, and a lot of times when you, at the midway point when you have an open date, you want to try to change up some practice things because things start to get old to even the coaches and the players.

We talked to some other staffs to try to find out what they (do) -- and some staffs have called us also, to see how we do things. We decided that we are doing the right things. We just have to try to do those things a little bit better.

Q. Did Morgan (Newton) need a week to regain some confidence?

COACH PHILLIPS: Everybody did. Not just (Morgan) -- I mean, everybody did. Everybody needed that week off. Anybody that would go through that, the first six weeks we went through, and especially the way we went through them, would need a week off. You'd have to ask Morgan, did he need it; I don't know, but I think everybody did.

Q. Do you think you'll see a change in him this week?

COACH PHILLIPS: Saw a change in everybody, especially yesterday, because you had two days off. I wanted the guys to get away from it. We had some guys that needed some treatment. Asked those guys to come in and get treated and got themselves healthy, and they did.

And then there's some people that, especially some of the freshmen, with all of the demands that are put on them, needed to get away and get home and understand the reason why they are here. Especially when you are a freshman and they have been here since June 7. First time, a lot of them the first time away from them. And you have that guy over there, screaming down their throat, they love him to death, but still; and the demands that are put on them with going to class, going to weights, going to practice.

All of those things that we put on our kids, it was good for all of them to get away, especially the freshman.

Q. Is Morgan going to have to play better for things to turn around?

COACH PHILLIPS: Everybody has to play better. Not just Morgan. Everybody has to play better. We have to coach better and everybody on this football team has to play better.

Q. The coaches obviously put kids in position but they also have to execute a game plan and make plays; did you catch wind of the older guys or anybody having honest discussions about what needs to be done, and do you want ownership like that?

COACH PHILLIPS: I had a couple kids come into my office and want to talk. And I'm sure that a lot of that had stemmed from them talking to each other.

Everybody's soul searching. It's not just the coaches. The players are, too, because they want to play better. You don't go on the field to not succeed. They go out on the field to succeed. So everybody wants to figure out how to get better, and that's what we did this week.

And like I said, discussions that our coaches had one-on-one and then some that I brought into my office I wanted to talk to see where their heads were. So it's just a good week for us to get our mental state back, because after you go through the first six weeks (of the season) and how we went through the first six weeks, you have to. We have to be realistic with this thing.

Q. (re: does he sense added pressure)

COACH PHILLIPS: I don't sense that. We have got to play. We have to get our football team better. We get better, and every man gets better, we'll succeed these six weeks.

Q. Did you make any personnel moves during the open week, or anybody we'll see playing more this week that has not?

COACH PHILLIPS: I mentioned one, Daylen Hall, he's a guy that's got to get on the field a little bit more. And (Alvin) Dupree, we have to get him involved, whether it be special teams or playing a little bit more defense but the problem with Dupree (is that) Ridge Wilson is playing better than he's ever played, and playing at a high level.

We just have to get more guys on both side of the ball playing at the high level that Ridge and Danny (Trevathan) and Winston (Guy), I think that's what's happened to Ridge. They pulled Ridge up. They pulled his play up. We have to pull more guys up to the level that those guys are and we have to get more guys pulling up on offense.

Q. During the off week, did you see any communication with the wide receivers? Did the light come on more for anybody?

COACH PHILLIPS: I saw a lot of guys out there working extra. Keeping them out there. La'Rod (King) is the leader of that group, and I saw him keeping them out there. And I saw Morgan out there with them, and saw them doing drills with Coach (Glenn) Holt and Coach (Tee) Martin and Coach (Tommy) Cook.

Receivers have a lot of pride, period. Most of them are usually, you know, best athletes on their high school or junior college team. So they have got a lot of pride. And those guys are really prideful and I think they want to change the way they have played, also.

So you saw those guys stayed out a little bit longer and working and trying to get in and out of cuts, you saw them playing a lot of press coverage against each other and trying to be physical off the line of scrimmage, and I saw them throwing up jump balls and just going up and trying to rebound.

That's what we have got to have. We have got to have it out of every group. I saw a lot of the groups staying out afterwards.

Q. Are you past the point of pulling redshirts?

COACH PHILLIPS: Unless there's just an emergency, yes. We are not going to pull a guy out of redshirt unless there's an emergency and they are going to play a significant role.

Q. You mentioned players have to play better and coaches have to coach better; how do you coach better?

COACH PHILLIPS: We have to coach harder and be more demanding on the techniques and those type of things. That's what we did this week. There's a lot more technique work, because if you are good fundamentally, you can overcome a lot of things. You can overcome strength, you can overcome size, if you are technically sound. If you are able to stay on a bent knee a little bit longer and come out of your hips, then you can be more explosive. All of those little things that we have to be more demanding on for our players will help us.

Q. You referred to the recruiting for next year; when you have a recruiting class, how many kids do you expect to get from freshman to their senior year, given the attrition of injuries?

COACH PHILLIPS: If you get 16 to 18 of them, that's a large number, to stay together for four years, you know.

And the other thing that happens is you get some of those guys redshirt, and we have had some junior college kids around here, we had two last year that graduated that added to that class.

So if you can get 16 to 18 of them to stay together, but it's hard to say. Academic gets some. Competition gets some. We have lost some kids here recently because of competition. And you miss on some, also. So all of those things factor in.

Q. (re: number that you expect will be significant starters by the time they graduate)

COACH PHILLIPS: Well, you're right about that, and they won't (all be significant players). Right now, we have got a senior class on defense, a huge senior class on defense and I think like six or seven of them are starters.

But, there's some really good players behind them that are rotating with them. And experience is the reason why they started. Some of the guys behind them might be a little more talented, but their experience has given them a chance to start. If you can have five on each side of the ball, I think you've done really well, if you've got five seniors on each side of the ball.

The thing we would like to have is a lot more fifth-year seniors, if you remember our success around here, we (would like to) have more fifth-year seniors. How would you like to have Winston (Guy) for another year, Ridge Wilson for another year, another two years.

The thing we had to do is put a lot of them (on the field) at an early age and you would like to have five fifth-year seniors on each side of the ball starting for you -- Danny Trevathan, for another year, or Winston Guy for that matter.

Q. (re: specific position to recruit to make an immediate impact)

COACH PHILLIPS: We have to have difference makers. You have to have some guys that can come in and help. We have got to try to find a big-time wide receiver, losing so many linebackers, got to find a linebacker that can help us. Losing some senior corners, have to have some corners come in and help us, also.

Q. (re: splitting time with tailbacks)

COACH PHILLIPS: We have always been a team that's had split carries with our tailbacks. But the reason why Raymond (Sanders) got some carries last year was because the starting guys (Derrick Locke) got banged up.

We have to have Raymond for the rest of the season. So we'll split his carries, because some other guys have gotten some experience, CoShik (Williams) has some experience behind him because of Raymond's absence early. And same thing with Jon-Jon (Jonathan George). He's got some experience. So we have to play all three of those guys to have success because we have to keep a fresh guy in there.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

#48 Ridge Wilson-Linebacker

On if the team has recuperated mentally…
“We haven’t had a game, but coming to practice yesterday, the coaches have emphasized and reiterated about doing things we haven’t done in the first six games. Whatever it is mentally or physically, I feel like coming into this week, we will be a lot better.”

On if the bye week has not only helped the team physically, but mentally…
“Coming off losing four games straight, we needed a break. At the beginning of the season, you are coming off camp. Camp is a wear and tear on your body. It is always a good time to take a break from everything.”

#70 Stuart Hines- Offensive Guard

On the areas the team improved on in the past two weeks…
“We have had some time to work and we got a little physical in practice. There is a lot of competition between offense and defense. We worked on being more physical.”

On his days off at home…
“We had Friday and Saturday off. I went home and visited my family. It was nice to lay on the couch and have my mom cook for me.”

On what the team found in terms of soul searching…
“We found that we need to keep working hard. We are kind of in a rut right now and the only way to get out of it is to work our way out of it. We have to buckle down and go back to work and not lose faith in each other and what we can do.”