Joker Phillips Monday Press Conference
Head coach Joker Phillips
COACH PHILLIPS: Got some good and not so good news. First, Max Smith is out indefinitely. He'll have surgery to repair a torn ligament in his ankle. If he can return before the season's over -- if he cannot return, we'll apply for a medical hardship at the end of the season. Dakotah Tyler is out with an ACL. He'll be back in the summer. Miles Simpson is day to day. Gabe Correll is out and Coshik Williams is day to day.
Zach West, in looking at him today, he's a lot better than he was on Saturday. He'll be back -- we expect him back on Wednesday or Thursday. (Raymond) Sanders, the same. Expect him back Wednesday or Thursday. Josh Forrest is back and (Ashely) Lowery is back.
Q. You mentioned after the game, you're going to have to have a backup for Jalen? Is redshirt probably off Patrick Towles?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yes. (That is) what we had talked about last couple weeks. If Max is out -- going to be out for a significant amount of time, that we would pull the redshirt off and play him. That's what we intend to do.
Q. Coach, what is Max's feeling right now?
COACH PHILLIPS: He's down, obviously. He has worked his tail off to get in the position to be playing major college football, and he was a guy that wasn't signed until March after his senior year of football. And obviously he's down, based on how hard he's worked. Not only has he worked hard to be able to play, he's playing at a high level also, and then to have an injury in game three and not able to play game four, and then two plays into game five being injured. You know, had he played game four, applying for a medical hardship would have been out, so I'm a little bit smarter than some of you guys think.
Q. How does Jalen Whitlow's health factor into taking the redshirt off Towles?
COACH PHILLIPS: How does it factor in? Well, Whitlow is fine. He didn't show up on the injury report today. So he's fine.
Again, we'll have to play them both. It's going to take an effort of both of them. And it could be right in the middle of the series. If it's not series to series, it could be play after play after play, switching them in and out, give them things that they both can do, give them a chance to go out and play and compete.
Q. How much of the playbook does Towles know given he has been running mostly with the scout team?
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, he had no been working with either the ones or the twos, but he's in the meetings every day. He's a guy that pays attention in the meetings, and we'll see tomorrow exactly what he knows, how much he knows.
But again, it's difficult when you hadn't gotten any reps, but we'll get him the reps this week to see, see how much he knows and see what he can do.
Q. How do Jalen and Patrick compare skill-set wise?
COACH PHILLIPS: The reason why we decided to go with Jalen as third because he's a guy that could extend plays. We saw that yesterday (Saturday vs. South Carolina). Not saying that Patty Ice (Towles) can't, but he does move around some, about as well as Jalen. Jalen was signed here as an athlete/quarterback, and so he should move around a little bit better, but Patty Ice is more of a pocket passer than Jalen. I gotta quit calling him Patty Ice. (Laughs). That's what I call him every day.
Q. PattyIce is his Twitter name ...
COACH PHILLIPS: He doesn't Twitter too much. Obviously I don't. Is that his name on -- oh, okay. So you guys know it.
Q. Did he ask you to call him that?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah. He just said don't call him Patty Cake. (Laughs).
Q. You talked Saturday about tweaking the offense to what Jalen knows, will you have to tweak it again for Towles?
COACH PHILLIPS: We gotta do both. We gotta tweak it more than what he can do and also what this other guy can do, too, what Pat Towles can do.
Q. Is Patrick's skill-set closer to Maxwell's style?
COACH PHILLIPS: A little bit closer. He's a little bit closer to Max (than) Jalen.
Again, Jalen is a guy that can run around and make plays, and again, extend plays. And Patty -- I'm going to go ahead and call him Patty. He's okay with it. Patty's a guy that can -- I shouldn't say Patty. Patty Ice. Patty Ice is a guy that sits in the pocket and can complete passes.
Hey, we gotta laugh. Come on. I'm not going to talk unless you guys laugh. Okay. I'm not. (laughter)
Q. How daunting is it for both the team and you to make those adjustments?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's football. We understand that injuries come with it. I was talking today, imagine in '05 when you had all those injuries. What was the end result? Created a lot of depth. The depth didn't show up till the next year, but we did create a lot of depth.
Q. The fact that in the first half Randy (Sanders) talked about calling things that were in Jalen's comfort zone and the second half when he got behind, he kind of had to get out of his comfort zone, but do you feel like there are things he can build on with that first half?
COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely. With the amount of snaps he had, he had 61 snaps. Definitely can build off that amount of snaps in an SEC game for a guy who hadn't stepped foot in a game with that many snaps. So definitely it's something for him to build on. Now we gotta get the other guys something to build on.
Q. You said you had to laugh ... Do you feel like with this injury that the deck is stacked against you?
COACH PHILLIPS: No. Again, it's football. We understand that. Injuries happen.
But yeah, it's a position that we did feel good about. Guy (Maxwell Smith) was playing as high a level -- probably as high as anybody I have been around at this phase of his career. And again, we understand it. He understands it. It happens. We gotta get the next two guys ready to play.
Q. What about Jalen's poise overall from last week until now?
COACH PHILLIPS: I didn't really see much of it when he came off the sideline in the Florida game, but this week I paid a little bit more attention to him after he came off the sideline. And he was as poised as I've ever seen a true freshman go in a game.
He was able to give us back information that we needed. He was seeing things well. There was some things that he didn't -- some motions, some shifts that he struggled with at times, but those are things we may have to give up, you know, just to give him a chance to play a little bit faster. But I really liked what I saw in his eyes during the game.
Q. You look around and so many young guys making more and more plays. Some say that is a sign the team is down, but do you see it as a sign of moving forward?
COACH PHILLIPS: You know, you see some fast guys that are -- fast, athletic guys that are energetic. And I watched our punt team go out there and take the -- punt return team take the field and there's nine freshmen, nine of them out there. Four guys that we tell, you guys attack the shield were all true freshmen. And they're bouncing around like Mexican jumping beans, you know. They're just running around.
And it tells you that the future is bright, but we understand and we gotta win now. Okay. We gotta win now. And we think those guys give us the best chance to win. That's the reason why they're playing, not because we're trying to build for the future. We're playing those guys because we think they give us the best chance to win.
Q. Question regarding how important it is to get a win considering the youth of the team may need some confidence ...
COACH PHILLIPS: It's important to get wins, period. Not just for them, but for these seniors who have put so much into this program, Collins Ukwu, Matt Smith and Larry Warford, Tay Neloms. Those guys have put a lot into this program, so it's important to get wins for those guys also.
Q. You guys ran the ball pretty well the last two weeks. How important is that going to be going forward?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's definitely important. We're running the ball against some very good defenses. Again, we gotta get more snaps at it. In the first half we had like 20-something runs, and we didn't get an opportunity to run it as much in the second half, but still had a decent average, not as good average you need when you have freshmen quarterbacks in there. So we're going to have to do a better job of continuing drives, grinding drives out with freshmen quarterback in their comfort running the football.
Q. Question regarding Maxwell's shoulder and if it will require surgery as well ...
COACH PHILLIPS: No. It just needs rest. He was going to play. I mean he was going to throw (against South Carolina). He wasn't going to just hand the ball off. So he was ready to go Saturday with his shoulder. I don't know how he would have held up with a hit, but we thought he was about 95 percent ready to go. So that's why we played him. But I don't think his shoulder would need anything.
Q. What do you think about CoShik?
COACH PHILLIPS: You know, CoShik's day to day also. I didn't mention him. But he's trying very hard to get back. He has a strained muscle in his hip. I don't have -- the kid's got some different muscles than me and Coach Cropp had back in the day (laughing). So he's got a muscle in his hip that I've been trying to figure out where it's at. I don't have it.
But he's trying. And you know, we're starting to get banged up at the tailback position also. Raymond is day to day. CoShik's day to day. Jon-Jon's been one of those steady guys. And we continue to see (Dyshawn) Mobley when he goes in the game gets positive yards and runs behind his pads, so we may get to see him a little bit more.
Q. What about the young guys, so many of them are playing. Are you starting to see a kind of bond together?
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, you do that with your classmates anyway, even if you're not playing. But I think the ones that are playing, it kind of separates them from the guys who aren't playing because they're together. The ones who aren't playing, they go lift weights together. The ones who are playing go lift weights together because of the time, because the ones who aren't playing have more time. They lift four days a week.
The ones who are playing are on a different schedule, so they do see each other a little bit more. And they are getting a little bit closer than the guys who aren't playing because the time schedules are different. But you're close with your class anyway, because as a freshman you're in classes together. They all live in the dorms together. So they're close anyway.
I think it's bringing them a little bit closer, though, especially when they make the plays. And they all are. You look down the board, I think there's 12 of them playing. We took 15 of them to Florida. I think there's 12 of them playing, and I can't name one that's not making plays, including (Jordan) Swindle. Swindle is going out on the field goal team and holding his own, and when he gets in at tackle he's making plays for us.
Punter's (Landon Foster) playing at a pretty high level. Last week most of our instruction was to try to keep it as close to the sideline as we can because of their returner. And he did exactly what we wanted him to do. The punt returner (for South Carolina) averaged 16 yards, and I think he was minus two or three last week, so he's playing at a high level, too. So a lot of freshmen are playing high levels for us.
Q. Question regarding Dakotah Tyler being out for the season and if Daron Blaylock will get the reps?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yes. Blaylock will have to step up and play more. And he was the guy that blocked the punt. You know, he's really our captain on our punt team, so he's a real smart guy. And when you're the safety, you make a lot of calls, so he'll get more opportunities.
If I stay in Sam (hybrid linebacker/safety) backer position, the way it is, we might have to move some guys down to our Sam backer, which is really a nickel safety. So we might have to move either Tay or Ashely into that position to try to get more speed, more cover guys, because we're about to see more spread teams, which would give him an opportunity to get more snaps also.
Q. Did you say Jalen is the starter and Patrick is the backup?
COACH PHILLIPS: We're going to play them both. One's gotta go in, and that's what you guys call starters. We don't always call them starters. So one of them will have to go in, and Jalen will probably be the first one based on the play that we call. Who knows what we'll call first this week whether it's Jalen plays or Patty Ice plays. That sounds pretty good. Patty Ice plays. We need to name a play for him. Maybe it would be easy for him to learn.
Q. On Mississippi State being a physical team ...
COACH PHILLIPS: They are. You know, they've gotten into this year a little bit different than they have been in the past, but they're still physical. They're looking to throw the ball a little bit more. You don't see the quarterback run game like you've seen when they (MSU coaches) were at Florida and when they were the first three years here at Mississippi State. This guy's a drop-back passer. You're seeing him do that a lot more.
But they still have their counter run game, which is a real physical downhill run that they have. They'll always carry that, I'm sure. That's the way it looks. But you see them spread the field wanting to throw the ball a little bit more.
Q. On if he sees a situation where both Jalen and Patrick play at the same time ...
COACH PHILLIPS: I mean it's still just Monday. We just found out today, so it's really hot off the presses for you guys. How many guys have tweeted it already? Oh, okay. So the world knows now, huh?
At our SEC coaches' meeting someone came to talk to us and said that information gets out in about 30 seconds. How many of you guys got it out in 15? (Laughs).
Q. Based on what you've seen with these two guys, what kind of personality do you think they're going to give the offense?
COACH PHILLIPS: I hope they give them a winning personality, a personality that gets the ball in the end zone, but it's hard to say with a true freshman. You know, when Morgan (Newton) went in as a true freshman, we had to become a more physical team. I don't think we'll be that with these two guys. I'm talking about a more downhill team. Not talking physical. Downhill. We still need to be physical, but more downhill. I don't think we'll have to be that as much with these two guys because I think they -- offense is a little different than it was when Morgan took over three years ago or four years ago. So we'll still have some of our bunch throw game, some of our bunch run game, all the things that we've been running with Max. So we'll just have to maybe split that -- split the packages up for them.
Q. This is not the first time you have had to play a true freshman quarterback ... What are the challenges they face?
COACH PHILLIPS: How difficult it is. And it is. I mean everybody thinks it's easy. It's difficult to get a true freshman ready to play with all the things that are involved, especially some of the defenses that we see.
And we're about to play our third (consecutive) SEC team that's coming in here with a lot of confidence, undefeated, ranked in the Top-25. And it becomes difficult to get the guys ready. And that's what I can remember the most.
Now, we had a week to get Morgan ready. Max had to go in in the middle of a game, and now we gotta wait to get -- Jalen had to go in two plays into a game, and let's see what he feels comfortable at. And you don't really know until they get into the games what they feel comfortable -- all the things that we practiced with Jalen, some of them you would call and motion wouldn't get called, the shift wouldn't get called. So you really don't understand how much -- it might get called in practice, but in the game is a different deal, so what I remember is how difficult it really is.
Q. When did you specifically get the news on Maxwell and have you talked to Patrick?
COACH PHILLIPS: We talked to both of them. No, I hope they see it on Twitter. (laughter) Okay. What is it, Patty Ice.com. No, but we got a chance to talk to them. We found out last night maybe, but today was when our doctors were able to read the MRIs for sure.
Q. Is Patrick excited?
COACH PHILLIPS: Definitely. He came here to play. So definitely he's excited.
Q. Is there any pressure about not pulling that redshirt off of him especially at this point in the season?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, because that's what we talked about. We've been in close communication with him, and being out indefinitely means it could be a long time. So we immediately brought -- talked to Max first, then talked to Patty Ice.
Q. If Maxwell gets his medical redshirt and then all three of those guys are sophomores next year ...
COACH PHILLIPS: It'll work its way out. It'll work its way out. Who would have thought two plays into it that we'd be sitting here talking about a guy that's got a chance to have a medical redshirt? So it'll work its way out.
I think to me it's best to play him. And if we'd have redshirted Max last year, he wouldn't have been able to get it this year. So I just think it's best to go ahead and play them, all three of them. They all will be sophomores with two having an opportunity to redshirt down the road if something happens. And in this game of football, something can happen. And we all understand that.
Q. When Patrick goes out there for the first time what are some of the challenges he will face?
COACH PHILLIPS: Just speed of the game, and it's definitely going to be a lot faster than he's used to. He hasn't gone against the one defense in full speed, you know. They're coming to sack you. He's always got a redshirt on, and we take care of our quarterbacks in practice, which we should. So I mean the speed of the game will be his biggest challenge, and understanding it.
Where you might outrun a guy to the corner in high school, you better have a good angle before you decide to try to outrun him. And also the speed at which those DBs break on balls. These guys (MSU) are leading the league in interceptions with nine. They got two for touchdowns, and that's going to be his biggest challenge to understand how quick they really are.
Q. Is there some advantage the fact he's been operating against your first string defense?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, but a lot of times it's -- you only read one side, and hey, throw it here, we don't care if it gets picked. Here's where they're going to throw it. But there's some benefit going against those guys, but there's also some down things going against those guys, too, playing on the scout team. But we'll get him ready. We'll get him as ready as we can in three or four days and let him go out there and make some plays for us.
Q. Have you seen an improvement in Patrick?
COACH PHILLIPS: You know, you see a guy that's really confident and a guy that's yelling, screaming and trying to get the scout team jacked up, and now we need him to get our number one in offense on that level. So that's the thing that I've seen in him. He's a lot more vocal since he's been on the scout team.
Again, he's been around those guys a lot more on the scout team and feels like he's the leader of those guys. He's been in the weight room with them. He's been down on the scout team with them, so he's feeling comfortable in being vocal down there.
Now we need him to be up with the ones. And he will be. That's his personality. Need Jalen to be there also. That's not quite his personality yet, but I think he will eventually be that guy.
Q. Did Jalen do anything different the other night that made you think, okay, let's try a few more things with him?
COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know if we need to call it as much just looking at it. I know I said this after the game about quarterback run games, but I think the best quarterback run game for him is dropping back and throwing. And now the guy can go make a play for us while everybody's in coverage. Guys may get out of the rush lane, and I think it gives him an opportunity to pull the ball down, extend plays. If everything's covered, then go get us five to ten yards.
Q. How hard is it to get the rest of the offense prepared to play with almost completely different quarterback styles?
COACH PHILLIPS: It shouldn't be hard -- we're going to call the same plays that they're used to. So it should not be hard for the rest of the offense. The hard part's getting those two guys, trying to figure out what they both feel comfortable doing.
Q. Do you believe that you are snakebitten?
COACH PHILLIPS: I don't.
Q. I know it has to be crazy, the thought of putting two freshmen quarterbacks out there, but on the other hand, is there something exciting about it, too, that you know -- let's see what we've got. We think these guys can do it, let's see what we've got?
COACH PHILLIPS: I think it is exciting because I can tell you this. The team we're about to play has no idea what they're about to get. We really don't know what we're about to get, but we're going to go for it.
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