Joker Phillips Weekly Press Conference Coverage
Oct. 22, 2012
Vanderbilt at Kentucky set for Noon ET on ESPNU: The Vanderbilt at Kentucky football game on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 at Commonwealth Stadium has been set for Noon ET on ESPNU, the SEC office announced.
Head Coach Joker Phillips
COACH PHILLIPS: Injury situation, Pat Towles, Mikie Benton, (Zach) West, (Martavius) Neloms, (Cartier) Rice, all day-to-day Towles and Benton, we expect to go tomorrow. We don't expect West, Neloms and Rice to go until Wednesday. We'll take a look at them. It's hard to evaluate them right now. We think they'll be able to practice but then we'll evaluate them after they are able to practice, Towles and Benton on Tuesday and West, Neloms and Rice on Wednesday and we'll see from there.
We're playing a veteran team in Missouri. When I say veteran team, you might see sophomore, juniors (playing), they only have a couple of seniors. But if you look closely, especially on defense, I think there was two guys in the guys that I saw playing, saw about 16 guys in the Vanderbilt game had been redshirted. So you see the thing about being redshirted they've been in the program a long time. Might say sophomore but they've been in the program for three years.
Might say junior, but they have been in the program four years. That is important and equals a veteran squad that understands their program and what allowed them to do that was their success they've had in the past. They are starting to get healthy. Some have told me that they held some guys out, held a lot of guys out in the Alabama game to try to get them back. I'm not sure their reasoning for it. But they should get guys back this week.
Quarterback's (James Franklin) an outstanding athlete. Last year threw for close to 3,000 yards, rushed for almost a thousand yards, which is unheard of. So he's a dual quarterback.
Last year he threw for 21 touchdowns and rushed for 15. This year he's throwing for about 61 percent of his passes and with only two interceptions. So he's a really solid player for them. Running back (Kendial) Lawrence has rushed for over 550, five TDs, really, really fast guy that catches the ball really good out of the backfield.
So we've got our hands full with them on offense. Defensively, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia only teams that scored over 20 points against these guys. So really solid defense. Defense is one of the top of the country in tackles for loss. They create turnovers. They're plus six in turnover margin, which means they create turnovers and they take care of the football. They do a really good job of pressuring the quarterback.
Then on special forces, which is where we've been pretty solid, been pretty consistent and pretty solid, is they have returned three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns. And big reverse, another one for about 45 yards. So averaging 18 yards a punt return and over 25 yards a kickoff return.
So (Missouri is a) real solid team. Again, it's an atmosphere that we are unfamiliar with but we know that it will be an SEC atmosphere. We'll be underdogs. And we had to go in there with the right attitude to come away out of this place with the win.
Q. If Patrick Towles can go, is he in the mix for quarterback behind Jalen and Morgan?
COACH PHILLIPS: If Towles can play, he'll play. It will be the same situation as we did in the Mississippi State game, but again he hasn't taken a snap yet. And we'll take a look and see tomorrow.
Q. Now that you've seen what Jalen can do, what he brings to the table, if you can get that rotation again, if you can have two options?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's definitely helped Jalen, when he's able to step back away from it and then get back out there and I think the game's definitely slowed down for him a bit when this happened. So it would continue to do that. Letting him step away from it.
But, again, (Towles) hasn't taken a snap yet. We don't know anything. All he's done is dropped back in the training room and we'll see on the practice field.
Q. Question regarding how well the team played defensively against Georgia and what challenges come up this week against Missouri …
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, we've got to do a good job of playing in space. But Georgia did spread the field some. Thing I thought we did real well was, we won individual battles up front. That's what you have to do, win a lot of the individual battles.
Got a lot of people on their side of the line of scrimmage, Collins Ukwu and (Donte) Rumph and Taylor Wyndham. And I thought the linebackers did a better job this past week. We've got to continue that. We've got to be consistent. But again we can't give up X plays. X plays are the big plays.
We gave up way too many in the last two games. One thing we're doing is we're stopping the run, which gives you a chance. You guys saw that last week. You stop one thing and get them to do the other, I think it gives you a chance. And then offensively we ran the ball pretty well which gave us a chance to possess the ball a little longer than we have been.
Q. What did you do to run the ball better … did you change scheme?
COACH PHILLIPS: We stayed with it. We committed to it. And we had some success early, which we were never out of this game so we could stick with it. So I think that had a lot to do with it. We've (run) the ball pretty consistent. We've just never had a chance to stick with it.
Q. Question regarding the team’s success with running the ball on third down …
COACH PHILLIPS: We did. I thought it was a bad play when we tried to run the ball third and long. We did. We converted a third and 13. We were (close) from converting a couple other ones, but again, sometimes on third and long what happens is you get three man rush. You get linebackers backed up six or seven yards. The secondary is a little bit loose also, trying to play the sticks. So sometimes the run game gives you a better chance. And especially with the young quarterback.
So we called a couple of runs and hit them and got the first down.
Q. Question regarding what the young guys in the secondary are doing well and struggling with the most …
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, they're doing a really good job of competing, showing up every day and competing really hard. The leader, if you had to have a guy that's ahead of the other ones would be Cody Quinn. I'm really excited about him. And then Fred Tiller went in and we had three freshmen play over 60 plays in the secondary.
We've got Cody Quinn playing 72. Zack Blaylock played 72 plays and Fred Tiller goes in and plays 60. With the young guy, you sometimes worry about his conditioning and him being able to hold up against a team as physical as Georgia. But all those guys came up, made tackles.
Blaylock came up. I think he had five or six tackles. Fred had five or six tackles. And they weren't just -- they delivered the blow. So that's the thing I'm most proud of. Those guys will compete. Don't back down from anything. You don't see those guys change when they get beat and they will get beat. They're young kids that still try to find their way, but their demeanor doesn't change when they give up a play.
Cody Quinn gave up a big pass and then a touchdown on the slant, and when he came off, I grabbed him and just wanted to look him in his eyes and see what I saw, and I saw still a confident guy but really didn't believe that the guy had beat him, had signaled touchdown.
He was one of those guys you feel good about that you have to play that way if you're playing corner. It's not every position. But you have to play that way when you're playing corner and the thing I'm most proud about is those guys, their demeanor just never changes. And Harmon is the same way, both Blaylocks are the same way. All five of those guys playing in the secondary, it's unusual for you to have five freshmen that have the confidence level that those guys have.
Q. Question regarding the importance for the next four games as it translates to momentum to 2013 …
COACH PHILLIPS: It has a lot to do with it. But we're battling trying to win now. We understand that. We're battling our tails off to win. Guys fighting, scratching for each other. Now we not only have we committed these last games for the senior bunch, but, again, definitely helps for depth.
When you rotate guys you usually rotate a young guy with a senior because probably more talented. We're not able to even rotate them now. They're playing.
So I think it definitely is helping those guys to be able to go into some tough environments and so you play against some teams. Not only playing against teams, especially the secondary, playing against teams that run the ball, they play against the teams that like to challenge you in the throw game so they get some work.
At times they're getting worked over but they're also getting a lot of work. So I think it definitely helps, it's helping them now and also helped them in the future.
Q. Question regarding if it’s too late in the season to play someone who hasn’t played yet …
COACH PHILLIPS: It's way too late. At this point in time if a freshman hasn't played, we'll have to get creative and I just think -- I mean, four games left, no, I don't think we need to get into that.
Q. I asked you the other night about the running into the punter call. What did you think about that?
COACH PHILLIPS: You could easily say that. We're not supposed to be there. Punt safe (was the defensive call). It's us. So we are not supposed to be near him. All we have to do is make sure they don't fake it.
Q. Question regarding the true freshman defensive backs not missing tackles …
COACH PHILLIPS: You don't (see us) missing a lot of tackles. That's the thing we want to improve being a better tackling team. And you saw Fred Tiller get cut two times on a screen pass, jumps over the cut block, falls down, misses the tackle but then makes it for a 2-yard gain. So those guys, Cody Quinn does not miss a lot of tackles. He's a guy that -- a lot has to do with being better athletes, being better athletes starting to be better athletes to understand how to run their feet. Come from good programs. Cody Quinn is one of our strongest guys in this freshman class. So we're starting to get guys that are physically and athletic enough to run through and understand balance.
That's what you have to have when you're tackling, you have to be balanced when you come up to make a tackle.
Q. Question regarding getting more reps for Dyshawn Mobley and if it’s something you can plan ahead of time …
COACH PHILLIPS: You know, Saturday, I mean I mentioned to coach Pardue, start one of the old guys when they need a blow, put Mobley in. And we didn't have long enough drives that the upperclassmen which was Raymond (Sanders) and Jon-Jon (Jonathan George) needed a blow.
So he didn't get in there. We have to come up with some way to get him in there. That obviously didn't work. And, again, as you get into the game you forget all those, you forgot who was playing, come up with a different way. Maybe he goes in in the third series, but I thought as those guys get -- which means he was up every series, which means he was up every series. Only happened one time that we had enough plays. One of them got dinged up that allowed him to go in. So we've got to do something else, (he’s) definitely a talent when you need to run the ball as much as we need to run now because he can use the power also. Those people have done a good job moving the pile. And he's even more of a changeup because he's more physical than even those two guys.
Q. Question regarding Jalen Whitlow’s migraine Saturday and if it has been a problem before …
COACH PHILLIPS: First time he's had it here. Jim (Madaleno) is on top of it now. Hadn't communicated. It's not happened -- it's happened when he was younger than football age. So we understand it now, which will help us be able to deal with it.
Q. Something you can do to prevent it now …
COACH PHILLIPS: We think so. Jim thinks so. We got a handle on it.
Q. What are your thoughts when Jim tells you he has to miss time because of a migraine …
COACH PHILLIPS: Just that. I'm sure that's what you're thinking too, you're kidding me. But he says he thinks we'll get him back. He didn't know exactly when. It took two series, was out two series and was able to go back in. (Whitlow is a) Tough guy. Again, he's a guy that doesn't say much. And I guarantee you he wouldn't come out if it was something that he could play with, he would have played. Just didn't feel he could help the team at that point.
Q. Question regarding how important it was to compete vs. Georgia after the loss at Arkansas …
COACH PHILLIPS: It was important for us to -- and I just think it was important for us as a team to come out and compete and I think a lot of it had to do with how we started, how fast we started. It gave a young team some confidence. So I just think it was important for us to come out, and I think a lot had to do with how fast we came out. Again, we'll continue to try to get better at how fast we play.
We've talked about it at halftime. Come out fast, did it in the second half. Go out, score, and we've got to continue to build on those type of things. Some things in the past you like to forget.
Q. Question regarding senior Taylor Wyndham’s beard …
COACH PHILLIPS: (Inaudible) I call him Wilson because he looks like Tom Hanks in a way (from the movie Cast Away). He likes it. I like it. I don't know what his mom thinks about it. But I'm fine with it. It's different. Starting to paint up his face and those things. Scary looking. But I'm fine with it. He's Wilson to me.
But we need to get it off close for him to interview for jobs. We will start seeing a bunch of our seniors cutting hair and getting cleaned up, including the guys playing in the NFL because it's important. Gotta look clean shaven like Rob Bromley.
#77, Darrian Miller, OT
On confidence level after playing Georgia…
“As far as confidence, we can play with anybody and it’s not so much as what the other team does, it’s how we perform as a unit.”
On how difficult it has been reinventing the offense…
“Not very difficult; you get to play and you have to execute it. I actually prefer the ground over the aerial attack. I like to be physical, it’s just my thing. Both of them have their advantages. I’m actually pretty solid in pass protection but every once in a while, I prefer to be physical.”
On the mood of the team…
“I would say determined. Nobody is really down on themselves. We still have a lot to play for, just determined to win at this point.”
#94, Taylor Wyndham, DE
On Missouri …
“They are a really good team and like to spread the ball out coming from their past conference. It is another SEC team for us and it will be a good test. They have a really good quarterback that likes to throw the ball.”
On playing in a new stadium …
“It should be fun. I have never been to Missouri and it will probably be the furthest West I have been. It will be fun and a good test.”
On Saturday’s performance picking everyone up because of the strong effort …
“It was a good game. We played hard. We didn’t get the end result that we wanted to, but there was a lot of progress made. There is more progress to be made for us to turn things around.”