Aug. 20, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky football team held its second 90-minute scrimmage of preseason practice Saturday morning and Coach Joker Phillips saw some good things from his offensive and defensive units.
“Pretty competitive scrimmage,” Phillips said afterward. “Defense got going fast early and kind of shut the offense down. Early, the defense gave up a couple of big plays (but) in the red zone bowed their neck and kept the offense from getting the ball in the end zone. The offense bounced back and got the ball in the end zone a couple of times.”
Phillips was pleased with the aggressiveness shown by the defense.
“(They were) Bringing stuff from all over the place, attacking the football, running to the football,” Phillips said. “There were some plays made offensively but the thing this defense has done is rally to the ball and get them to the ground. The thing you can’t do is have game-altering plays – runs over 15 (yards), pass over 25. They (the first-team defense) gave up two the first couple of series but after that really bowed their neck and didn’t give up any of those game-altering plays.”
Asked about the team’s overall tackling, Phillips said, “I think a lot of it has to do with how well we run. We’re a faster football team. Guys are finishing plays and that has a lot to do with it. We’ve worked a lot on tackling drills. Rick (co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter) has done a really good job working from the ground up and working on the fundamentals of tackling.”
A big question for the team is the development of the passing game following the departure of the quarterback and the top two pass catchers from last season. Phillips saw some encouraging signs during Saturday’s scrimmage.
“The wide receivers made some plays today, made a couple of plays down the field,” Phillips said. “Morgan (quarterback Morgan Newton) is handling himself really well. I stand behind the huddle and just watch how we takes command of it and operates at the line of scrimmage. He has good command of the football right now. He threw the ball down the field with some authority (in the scrimmage). He threw the intermediate passes well, too. I’m really pleased with how he has grown up and how to prepare to be a quarterback in this league.”
Special teams were a key part of the workout as well.
“We had some really good reps on the special teams, worked every phase today live,” Phillips said. “Going into this thing our concerns were our returners. I like Randall Burden back there as a punt returner. Winston (Guy) has done some kickoff returning for us before and I like what he has given us back there. We have some tough guys that can really run that can cover kicks.’
Phillips also noted that today’s scrimmage will go a long way toward helping determine the playing rotation so the team can begin preparing for the season opener Sept. 1 vs. Western Kentucky.
“I think there will be some separation,” the coach said. “I don’t want to make any assessment just off watching it in person, I want to watch the film and see how the guys perform. Sometimes you think a guy performed well and you go watch the film and it was lousy and then the other way also. We want to give them a fair assessment because it’s important.
“We got a lot of reps for a lot of guys that need them. We still have those bumps and bruises and had some guys sitting out that need to start healing so we can get going next week working on Western Kentucky.”
The Wildcats will meet on Sunday to review the scrimmage film before returning to the practice field for a pair of practices Monday.