Joker Phillips Press Conference Coverage

Oct. 24, 2011

Head coach Joker Phillips

Excerpts from Joker Phillips news conference, Oct. 24

(Mister) Cobble has a bruised shoulder, should be able to practice Wednesday, Thursday. (Joe) Mansour has an ankle and it is his kicking side ankle. (DJ) Warren has an AC (shoulder sprain) and he'll be in red on Wednesday. Thursday he won't have any contact and then we'll be -- should be able to play.

Another huge challenge for us. We have to improve on some things that we didn't improve as much as we thought we had during the open date. One is ball security. We were very careless with the ball. We have got to get better with protecting the ball. We ran the ball efficiently. But we need to finish with the football.

And then our coverage team, we had letups in the both in punt coverage and the kick coverage. So got to get better in those areas.

Q. Re: Martavius Neloms’ improvement at safety

COACH PHILLIPS: He is. He's probably one of the better middle-of-the-field players we have had in a while that has the range to get from sideline to sideline. He's a really good blitzer and anticipates the blitz real well. I think it was a good move for us.

There's been some discussion whether or not some of our young safeties are coming along fast enough to get them some reps at the position also opposite him. Mikie Benton is having to play a lot of snaps. We are still trying to bring Ashely Lowery along and still trying to bring (Glenn) Faulkner along to give them opportunities to get on the field alongside him. Because when you have an experienced guy at one of the safeties, it usually gives you an opportunity to play some of the other guys at the other safety. And he's one of the those guys that understands what we are doing and can get those guys lined up.

What we have to do is keep bringing those guys along so they can get some reps beside him.

Q. Re: running game vs Jacksonville State.

COACH PHILLIPS: Offensive line did a good job getting a hat on their hat and our backs pressed blocks. CoShik (Williams) missed a couple of cuts, especially one power play we thought we had a chance to get even more yards on. He cut back and, that's a no-no, especially on the power play, never cut back. And for some reason he cut back and we left a lot of yardage out there, especially on that play.

It definitely helps give our guys confidence in the running game, because we know the thing that we have to do. And I think you saw last week, what our defense can do when they are fresh, when they don't have to play as many plays and keeping those guys off the field is done by running the football efficiently and moving the chains and then being able to have some big plays in the pass game.

Q. What Mississippi State did well in playing LSU close

COACH PHILLIPS: They did a good job stopping the run against (LSU) and didn't allow big plays. LSU, if you look, it stopped everybody. It wasn't just us. They have done a good job on defense of stopping a lot of teams and LSU didn't give up any big plays, which we have to do this week to keep the game in hand.

You can't give up big plays. They are going to run the ball and they are going to try to run the ball at you, and we have seen that in the past, what they want to do against us is run more downhill stuff. That's been our game. We have been pretty good, when teams try to run downhill at us, the thing that we have had to struggle with is when people try to get out in space.

So we have got to hold up, stop the runs that they try to run downhill at us. Also, Mississippi State defended the pass when LSU was trying to hit the play-actions, because they definitely had enough guys in the box to stop the run. But when they (LSU) tried to go to the playaction, (MSU) they did a good job in the back end.

Q. Talk about Vick Ballard, what kind of back is he?

COACH PHILLIPS: Big-time back. Not a real big guy. Doesn't seem to be a big guy but he runs real physical. Presses blocks. Protects the football. And he's a big-time SEC running back.

Q. Re: how UK defensive line has played recently

COACH PHILLIPS: Better. A lot better. I think what's helped us is getting Cobble and (Donte) Rumph, and now you're starting to see, we are sprinkling in Christian Coleman, who is getting, playing about 25 snaps a game. (Mike) Douglas is playing well for us, also. Teams are trying to be physical with us, and you know, and that's not Luke's (McDermott) game.

Luke's game is a little more finesse. He's a little undersized and we are using Luke for a pass rush on third down, those type of things and I think what's happened is us putting bigger bodies inside as teams have had a hard time moving those big guys and those guys up front played a lot better.

Ridge Wilson is really a so-called defensive lineman in some of our schemes, some of our personnel groupings. He’s becoming a pretty good pass rusher, also, getting some pressure on the quarterback, even when we are just bringing four or sometimes three guys, and he's doing a good job. He's playing with a motor.

He made an effort play last week that we had to praise, had to praise; give him some sugar for that, because he has not had a lot of extra effort plays. And he's starting to give us those type of plays. It was off the screen where he rushed the passer. He was actually was the guy that caused the interception that Luke got also. But he rushed the passer on one of the third downs and retraced his track and came back and tackled the tailback on a screen play. That's a huge play and huge positive for him and that he gives us up front, also, because he's so-called, a defensive end, as some have said.

Q. Re: youth of defensive line

COACH PHILLIPS: They are. And there's some young ones that we are watching grow up, too, that are not even playing. So we are excited about their future, the defensive line position. Cobble and Rumph are sophomores. Christian Coleman is a freshman.

(Mark) Crawford is another guy that gave us some depth there. Did not play as much last week, he's coming off a shoulder also but he'll give us some depth at that position. Douglas is a freshman. (Alvin) Davis is a freshman. So we have some good, young guys in the program, and they are starting to move ahead of some of the guys that have played a lot around here the last few years.

Q. Status of Collins Ukwu

COACH PHILLIPS: Ukwu, we wanted to get him in the game some to get him comfortable. He probably could have gone more than he did. We played him about six plays last week and moved around well. You know, had some hustle plays and we'll get him in there a little bit more this week. We'll still start Douglas, but Ukwu will split time at that position.

Q. Re: Trevathan interception when he collided with the referee.

COACH PHILLIPS: Looked like he had plenty of time -- Danny was running around. I didn't see that. I just saw, I was looking at Danny and Danny played the play. They I think ran the play a few times and hit us and hurt us on it, and I saw Danny just made an outstanding play. I wasn't really looking at the referee.

But the play that set the tone was the play that Neloms made. That was the play that set the tone. At half-time, one thing we tried to remind their kids about, how Jacksonville State had played against Ole Miss last year. They played really well. They had played really well in the second half, a couple of the games this year.

So the thing that we were telling our kids to try to out-do your performance in the first, how do you perform in the first half, and we kept telling our defense, you've got to make a play. You made one in the first half, you've got to out-do it. That's one thing that I was wanting those guys to do was get that one in the end zone.

Q. Re: how it helps to play at home.

COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely helps. It's good to get back home after being on the road in two hostile environments, at LSU and South Carolina, two of the best environments in college football. But it's definitely been good to be back home to play in front of our home fans.

Q. Re: offensive performance vs. Jacksonville State

COACH PHILLIPS: Want to run the football, especially once we saw that we could run the football, we wanted to -- and I think the best confidence you can give an offensive line is being able to run the football.

And our offensive line is definitely key to this next second half of the season. Our skill guys are, too, but our offensive line is the biggest key. They have not given up a sack in two weeks and given up some pressure, especially in the South Carolina game. But they haven't give up a sack in two weeks, and for us to run the ball like we did the past week was a huge confident boost for those guys.

But he didn't have as many mistakes like I said. Our receivers were in position to make blocks which was good, and those were the other things that we have to praise those guys for, also, because in the past, we had not caught the ball well. We had not blocked well, and they did them both, at times, well this past week.

Q. Re: Ryan Tydlacka

COACH PHILLIPS: He's been really -- he's probably our MVP, if you look at the season, it stopped today, he's been the MVP, besides Danny (Trevathan) and Winston (Guy), those guys could probably argue that they have been. But if he was talking offensively, two big plays, he would be the guy. He hadn't kicked a ball in the end zone and hadn't had a touchback until Saturday which was really not a touch back. It was a bobbled punt that went back there. But he's key.

We have started doing a chart on our field position and how hard it is to score when you go on 80 yards and if you look at it, especially when you are struggling offensively, especially as we have been struggling the first half of the season, it's hard to put together those type of drives.

Really when we got the ball on the two-yard line after the quick kick, I was really wanting the offense to drive 98 yards because it definitely helps your confidence. It's so hard to do, and we had a bad play in the drive, and got us behind the count and we couldn't convert on third down and had to punt it away.

But it's just really key that we get some short fields, and last week was the first time that we got some short fields and our offense capitalized on them. And can we can't give short fields, also. Our turnovers, last week, we turned the ball on the (JSU) two-yard line and we turned the ball on the 25-yard line. Okay, that's long fields for the opponent.

And one thing we had been doing has been turning the ball back up and giving our opponent short fields. Can't do those type of things. Field position is very vital in a game like this.

Q. Re: trying to establish the run in the second half of the season.

COACH PHILLIPS: We want to do that but we have got to throw the football. We have got to throw the football. It’s hard to manage first downs, manage touchdowns, just throwing the ball 16 times a game. We have got to be able to drop back and throw the ball.

Our philosophy around here has been throw it to run it (throw the ball to set up the run) and recently it's starting to go to run it to throw it. I would like to get back to throw it to run it, okay, but have to feel comfortable with that. But we have got to throw the football in order to have a chance in the second half of the season.

Q. Re: CoShik Williams

COACH PHILLIPS: So because of the two weeks, and I think I mentioned it to you guys on one of the days, CoShik Williams really, really looked good during the open date and he’s practicing hard. What's kept him is being consistent. Raymond Sanders has been one of the more consistent guys. He's kind of held him off, and if Raymond had been down, CoShik, he's got to step up and be more consistent in his play and his practice, also. But he's got a chance to be a good back. He's been pretty durable, also, when he's gotten a chance to play. We expect him to have a big second half of the season.

Q. Re: wide receivers.

COACH PHILLIPS: Got to get Brian Adams started. We have got to get Brian Adams going because he's got some ability. Gene McCaskill is another guy that has done it around here. He's done it in big games for us. We have got to get him going also. Seems like right now, La'Rod's been the guy that we have gone to the most. But those other two guys we just spoke about, those two guys have some ability and one has done it, and one has not done it in a game yet. But I think he has the potential to.

Q. What's held him (Adams) back?

COACH PHILLIPS: Injuries have held him back for the most part but he seems to be healthy and healthy now. We only threw the ball 16 times last week. Threw the ball 16 times and I think if we get into a game in which I think (we will) these next few games, we have to throw the ball 25, 30 times a game to have an opportunity to win, which should give him more opportunities.

Q. Re: throwing ball more effectively.

COACH PHILLIPS: For the most part this season, the thing that Morgan has to get better is throwing intermediate passes.

And if you look at those last couple of years, we have run more shallow crosses, trying to hit people on the run, which you have to do when you have your receivers that are struggling to get off vertically. Okay, how do you get separation? Run away from people. That's what we have been good at. Morgan has got to get better at those type of pass routes. You can't do those like you're throwing the fade a hundred miles an hour. One was a missile at Matt Roark's head, and I was ducking and I was on the sidelines. Got to have some touch. And those are things that he's got to better, throwing those type of routes, throwing the curl routes.

Sometimes you've got to have fastball and sometimes you have to have some touch to give those guys a chance, especially (the distance from) me to you. It's hard to locate and it's hard get your hands up in time to catch those things. But he has thrown the deep ball real well but we have to protect those to get some deep passes.

Q. re: importance of Morgan running this week

COACH PHILLIPS: Be really important. We cannot get behind the count on these guys. These guys are like sharks and they will smell blood, and you get behind the count, that's when they get real exotic in what they do defensively with all of the pass rushes. And if they run a lot of different coverages, you're going to see a lot of heat put on you when you got third-and-long or second-and-long.

Q. Re: MSU quarterback Chris Relf.

COACH PHILLIPS: Did not play this past game. But he's a guy that's ran the ball really well and can hurt you. He's done it against us numerous times, and we have got to account for him this week.

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Kentucky Players

DT Donte Rumph

On Mississippi State …
“They are very good and physical team and coming off a bye week they are going to be prepared and ready. We have to prepare hard as well and be ready to play on Saturday.”

On how much he has improved since this time last season …
“It took a lot of work for me to get where I am right now, but I know that I still have a long way to go. I am just trying to get better every week. Last season, I was kind of behind the eight ball but I have caught up well.  I think I am still just learning the game and the speed of the game. I am just trying to get better.”

On what Mississippi State does well …
“They are a very good, hard-nosed football team that just lines up and runs it at you.”

TB Jonathan George

On Mississippi State …
“We know that they are a very physical ball team and a very good ball team. We treat every team the same. Every team is good and every team comes out to win. We have respect for them as a ball team and we are just going to try to prepare as hard as we can.”

On Mississippi State coming off a bye week …
“It does play to their part because they have had an extra week to prepare. They are going to come out ready to play and we just have to have the same level of preparation and be ready to play as well.”

On what he has been doing well in practice …
“I think that I am on top of my assignments a lot more this year than in the past. I have been watching more film and in practice I have been on top of everything and working hard. If I have questions, I ask the coaches so they can let me know what I am doing wrong and they have done a good job of that to help me improve.”