Weekly Phillips Press Conference Coverage
Oct. 8, 2012
NOTE: The Kentucky-Georgia football game on Saturday, Oct. 20, at Commonwealth Stadium has been set for a 7 p.m. ET kickoff. The game will serve as UK’s annual Homecoming. Although kickoff time has been set, the network broadcasting the game will not become official until after completion of games this weekend. The UK-UGA game will be on one of these three networks: ESPN2, ESPNU, FSN.
Head Coach Joker Phillips
COACH PHILLIPS: All right. Injury situation, Pat Towles will be out this week and will be week to week. We'll take a look at him every week to see how he is progressing.
And John Cropp did not show up for treatment today, so we expect him to be ready to go this week.
Again, we got another opportunity going into a hostile environment, a team that's playing really well offensively. Second in the league in passing at 300 yards per game. They scored 11 touchdowns passing. They're fifth in total offense with 409 yards. Got one of the nation’s top passers in Tyler Wilson. One of the top receivers in our conference, Cobi Hamilton, who is leading the league in receiving yardage. Two great backs in (Knile) Davis and (Dennis) Johnson. Defensively, have one of the top tacklers in (Alonzo) Highsmith and one of the leading sack guys in (Trey) Flowers.
So again, another opportunity for us to go on the road to play a really good football team.
Q. Was the injury to Towles a high-ankle sprain?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yes. Doesn't require any surgery. It's a high ankle sprain. Just depends how fast he will heal.
Q. I know you would rather have a victory Saturday, but when you looked at the tape, it looked like a lot of the young people had really stepped up.
COACH PHILLIPS: They are. We got a lot of those young guys that are playing some exciting ball. Again, there's going to be mistakes made when you're playing guys that are freshmen and playing for the first time.
We played two more freshmen this past week, a total of 14. But if you look across, all of them are making plays. It's hard for you not to look and watch those guys play and not get excited about them.
It starts with the punter (Landon Foster), the punter is one of the best we have had around here in a long time in terms of being a freshman.
A couple of the receivers, you are starting to see the two Blaylocks (at safety) show up a lot and now getting time to play. We actually played Zack for the first time and in 23 plays he had four tackles.
The problem has been with him, he was injured early in the preseason and then got injured again when we were about to play him and then he's back healthy. And he made some plays for us.
The two linebackers (Khalid Henderson and Pancho Thomas); we haven't seen a lot of (Dyshawn) Mobley, but when you have seen him, he's done well and moving the pile and taking care of the football. He's now playing a lot of the special teams.
When you see our punt team go out, our punt return team, probably been one of the bright spots of our special teams. Our special teams have been solid, but if you look at the punt return team this week there will be 10 freshmen, 10 freshmen on the punt return team. And the sophomore (Demarco Robinson) will be doing the returning. So you can't help but get excited about watching those guys.
Q. Did J.D. Harmon have a X-ray this morning?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's new to me. It could be true. But, no, that's, that would be new to me.
Q. Could Towles get this season back with a medical redshirt?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, if he's unable to return, yes, he could get, we could apply for a medical hardship at the end of the season.
Q. What about if he's healthy enough to play, but elects not to?
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, if he's unable to return … (indecipherable) … it's something that we have to discuss with him and his family and the compliance people, just to make sure that everything's in order.
And I have talked to him and told him we'll do what's best for him first and that's what we need to do. That's what we're about.
Q. Question regarding Rick Minter’s comment after Saturday’s game that UK had six able bodies in the secondary …
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, you got the three freshmen and Cartier (Rice) at the corner position. After that game we had the two Blaylocks and Eric Dixon. So we were down to about seven, seven guys.
Q. What goes through your mind when you find that out?
COACH PHILLIPS: Next guy up. Nothing goes through my mind. It's just a part of the game. It's going to happen. I'm not one of those, "woe is me" guys. We expect the next guy to come up and play good football for us.
Q. Have you had to say, ‘next guy up’ more this year than ever …
COACH PHILLIPS: In this position (as head coach), no. But I've been through this, again, 2005 it was the same way. Most of those were, those were surgeries and someone said, well, it wasn't any significant players that matter. John Connor didn't matter? Keenan Burton didn't matter? It was some really good football players for us. And we have some now that are good football players that are out right now.
But again, it's part of the game, we have had to move people around before and we won some of those games. So we expect that to happen this year.
Q. When you say week-to-week, did the doctors give you any hope that he would be able to play?
COACH PHILLIPS: Well kids heal differently. Some heal faster than others. I never would have thought that the two tackles would have played. And they haven't missed a play. Darrian Miller and (Kevin) Mitchell, and also Zach West. Zach West dinged his shoulder.
But those two high ankle sprains that we got from our two tackles -- now they don't have to move around as much as a quarterback or receiver or running back or defensive back, but those guys didn't miss a snap. So guys heal differently and we'll have to wait and see with those.
Q. I know some of these are freak injuries, but do you look at all at strength and conditioning or training as the cause?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, those things happen. Again, how he landed and, again, I told him that, don't fight, there's no need, when a guy bear hugs you, you're not in high school, you're not going to shake those guys off. That guy that was grabbing him this time last year, he was probably 150 pounds and he could do that.
But this year the guy's a 300 pounder and, you know, go down. Go down gracefully. You got to learn how to fall.
Q. Ashely Lowery has had head injuries multiple times this season … Is he still dealing with a concussion and could it end his season?
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, we're taking precautionary results as far as making sure that we know that he's ready to go. We're not going to put him out there if he can't perform at a high level. It's been tough on him. I think that the same injury came about, I think it might have happened on the first play, the kickoff, so that's the thing that we're taking a long look at, making sure that we don't put him out there unless he's healthy a hundred percent.
COACH PHILLIPS: Benton is an ankle. His happened late in the fourth quarter. And Brown is a hamstring from two weeks ago. He did not play last week.
Q. With Morgan Newton being the backup now, do you think that his shoulder is as good as it’s going to be?
COACH PHILLIPS: At this point, yes. There's not much rehab you can do now. Again, he just needs to continue to throw and get comfortable in throwing all the routes. But there's not much you can do as far as rehab for him. And this is as good as he'll be.
Again, he's got to be the backup with us only having two -- and then we'll take, on the road with us, a young red shirt, or I mean a true freshman, another true freshman (Jeff) Witthuhn so we'll have three quarterbacks there, three guys that, two that have played and one that has not played. But we just feel like we have to take Witthuhn us to help us get out of the game, possible.
I know last week Randy had three quarterbacks in his quarterback warm ups and none of them were shaving except for Witthuhn, and he had been shaving since the sixth grade, or so. (laughter)
Q. Question regarding freshman quarterback only knowing percentage of the playbook and if that translates over to the defensive side of the ball and if you feel comfortable with them …
COACH PHILLIPS: You don't feel comfortable about anything. But, you know, we signed them. We signed them to come here and play. We knew we were going to have to play some of those freshmen anyway, especially in the secondary. We lost one for academics, but after that didn't have any others. So we expected all three of them to play.
We didn't expect them to be starters this early in the season, but they are. And again, we'll let them play. And I've enjoyed watching those guys. I don't know about you guys, but those three guys that went in there and played, they made some big hits for us. They have challenged some receivers. Cody Quinn is now playing like he's a sophomore because of the amount of reps that he's got.
Tiller made some, came up and made some big plays. Big hits for us last week.
J.D.'s got his hand on a few balls.
These two Blaylock kids, those guys, I'm excited to watch those guys play. They come up and strike people. So you get excited to watch them play.
Q. What are the difficulties of playing freshmen defenders?
COACH PHILLIPS: Well all the different shifts and motions and all the different looks that you get, those things concern you. But we have got to do a really good job of preparing those guys, preparing them for all the different looks.
And then you got a veteran quarterback that we're about to play. There is no young quarterbacks in this league, except for here. But from the rest of our schedule everybody else has veteran quarterbacks.
So we just got to get them prepared the best we can as far as understanding the different formations that they will see. This is a veteran receiver group also. Although they did lose three receivers last year to the draft, they still got some really quality receivers that are playing at a high level. Cobi Hamilton is playing really well for them and leading the league in receiving yardage.
Q. Is there anything different about when you're recruiting twins or coaching twins or anything like that that is unusual or just plain different?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, you got to say things twice to them. (laughter) Zack was really not the talkative guy, he's more the shy one. And Daron's the talker.
And so one of the things we did throughout this recruiting process is we wouldn't call Zack, we would call Daron's phone, because Zach didn't always answer his phone. And it wasn't us, it was just he just didn't … you know, when I call you, you don't answer half the time? You know how that goes.
So he just doesn't want to talk. But the thing we did do is we called Daron, Daron would answer every time and we'd say, is Zack there? Yeah. Put him on the phone. So now he's got no choice but to talk to you. But that was one of the differences.
Usually twins are close enough that you know that they want to go to the same place. So we were creative and understanding who we needed to talk to. And the one we needed to talk to was Daron. He could sell Zack. And that's what happened.
Q. Could you talk about the challenges having had to almost completely re-invent yourself offensively numerous times at about this time last year.
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, we have had to be creative. Some of it has been in a real short week. Maybe one week we had three days.
But again we went into this season, after the first two games, of thinking we had a chance to be pretty good offensively with the way our quarterback (Maxwell Smith) was playing, our receivers were playing really well, we thought that our running game was, we had run the ball with our tailback running game was averaging about five yards a carry. So we felt pretty good about our offense.
And we felt that our defense would continue to improve with all the young guys that were playing.
And now we have had to change a lot of what we had done in the off season with the way we were playing. We were still trying to play with the tempo, but you're not seeing a lot of the same formations, you're not seeing as much of the same routes that we saw early.
So again, we got a veteran staff that understands how creative we have to be to get this thing done. We have been limited a little bit in what we could do offensively. And it started last year, it actually started (Mike) Hartline's junior year. Which was Morgan's freshman year. We changed a lot from -- Hartline was playing at a pretty high level during the South Carolina game and throwing the ball well. And he goes down and now we have to become more of a run-oriented team and try to throw the ball down the field instead of some of the intermediate and quick game.
So we have had to change a lot, but that's the game, and we accept the challenge.
Q. Question regarding being patient with true freshmen getting so much playing time …
COACH PHILLIPS: Very. Very patient. First of all, you got to be patient with them. They're 18 years old. So you have to be patient with those guys. And then you also have to be patient -- sometimes a two, three-yard run is a positive run. Because you try get yourself into some thirds and shorts and thirds and mediums, so you're not getting yourself into third and long.
We went through the first three games I think, we had four sacks. Max has really taken four sacks. And now in the last three games we have taken 11.
And that's been difficult, because you get behind the count and it becomes really tough on third downs.
But we'll continue to grind it out and try to make sure that we don't give up sacks and have to call plays on third and long.
Q. Question regarding Glenn Faulker …
COACH PHILLIPS: He tried to last week and it just didn't, he wasn't ready. Glenn had surgery also, I thought we had announced that, but Glenn had surgery and he's just coming back and just got released and tried to run last week but couldn't.
Q. Question regarding UK’s struggles on third-down defense and what has been the cause …
COACH PHILLIPS: Different things. We had a couple busted coverages that you can't do. We haven't gotten a lot of pressure on the quarterback with our four down. And then when you blitz, you turn a guy loose and he makes a play on you.
Now when you blitz and you don't get home, there's a chance for a big play. And we have had some big plays when we have sent some pressure.
So again, and we have -- I think we're 0-4 in third and longs too, which is, you can't do. And that's the thing you want to do is get them into third and long and we didn't get ourselves off the field in those third and longs.
Q. Question regarding how to defend the wheel route …
COACH PHILLIPS: How do you defend it? Just got to be a little bit closer than we were. It depends on what coverage you have.
If you have man-to-man coverage, again man-to-man coverage you can't look back at the quarterback, you got to keep your eyes on the man. And if it's zone coverage you got to stay in your zone and you should be okay if it's zone coverage and everybody is standing in their zone.
Q. What do you need to see from Jalen Whitlow this week that you didn’t see last week?
COACH PHILLIPS: Getting the ball out of his hands quicker. Again, decisions, he has to make decisions a lot quicker. Is he open? Is he open? No. Let's go. Go. Run it. Throw it. Get it out of your hands. Let's not get ourselves in a broken play situation.
COACH PHILLIPS: A lot of guys don't have a lot of catches since Smith going out. We were throwing for 320 something yards and one of the top in the league, after three games. And now I think we're near the bottom. About 214 now.
With Sweat not catching as many catches and Demarco Robinson has caught, he's been the starter and he's caught probably 15 in the last two or three weeks.
So again, we got to continue to get better in the passing game and a lot of it has to do with, we have got to give our quarterbacks things that they feel comfortable with.
Max, again, felt comfortable with all of our shallow crosses and all of those things that you saw last year, which allowed Matt Roark to catch 10 passes when he went in the game. And a lot of quarterbacks don't feel comfortable with that.
So we got to feel things that they feel comfortable with and rep it over and over and over and get better at it.
Q. Is there a feeling that Arkansas maybe figured things out last week?
COACH PHILLIPS: They have played a tough schedule also, Arkansas has. If you look at our schedules, they have been pretty similar. They lost to a really talented Sun Belt team. And a really talented, in overtime, they lost to a really good Rutgers team out of the Big East. Played some really tough SEC opponents in A & M and Auburn. And our schedules are pretty similar.
They stayed a lot healthier than us, obviously, but they're a good football team. They played some tough opponents also.
Q. Did the doctors put a label on Towles injury.
COACH PHILLIPS: No, they didn't. Again, a high ankle sprain is a high ankle sprain is a high ankle sprain. And again, we all heal differently. And again, he doesn't have to move as far or as fast as a tailback or a receiver, so who knows what -- and some guys pain tolerance is different than others. So we'll take a look at it every week.
Q. Coach Sanders said that Aaron Boyd is good against zone defense but not against man-to-man, has that been the reason for he has slowed down after that career game?
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, we have just not been as productive in the passing game also. I mean that is true, but again, we haven't been as productive in the passing game and again I really think that one of the things too, our receivers, there's so much competition there and that you better play well every week.
Demarco Robinson played well I think in the Florida game, so he's been the starter. And he's played well in the last couple weeks and gotten balls thrown to him and made some plays for us. So he's got more reps than the rest of them.
And that's the thing about competition, you have to show up every day, not that Aaron had a bad game, but another guy had a better game and that's the reason why he's getting more snaps right now than the other guys.
Q. Randy Sanders said that Towles did things in that first drive that made him scratch his head. Can you talk about that drive?
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, the game's easier or should be easier and that's why we try to practice as fast as we possible can, so things slow down a little bit for them in the game.
I thought the first drive that he went in, we threw a naked, we threw a screen out to the tailback things that he should feel comfortable with. And then we max protect and one guy was losing his guy, so one of our tailbacks went and tried to help him and his guy came free. So we had a max protection for him and nothing he had to manage and he stood in there and made the play for us. So I thought his first series was really good.
And then the second series I think we ran the ball three times. And you say, well, why did you run the ball three times when the guy just completed those passes. Well, we ran the ball on first down and got six. Okay. We ran the ball on second down and got three. So now it's third and one. So we ran it on third down trying to get the first down.
And then made a couple mistakes in the third series, but again, it's to be expected.
Q. Every coach is evaluated at the end of the year. Are you concerned about being evaluated when it seems like --
COACH PHILLIPS: I get evaluated every day from you guys, so. Not from you guys, but from someone.
Q. But at the end of the year, how can you be evaluated when you have all these injuries?
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, I don't have time to think about or evaluate myself, I don't have time for that. One thing we have to do is evaluate what we're doing football-wise and trying to put a product on the field that, and get ready and get prepared, put a product on the field that has a chance to win a game against Arkansas.
Q. What is the hardest part about coaching freshmen?
COACH PHILLIPS: Hardest? They don't all know as much as they think they know. That's one of the hardest things.
And again they have all, most of the guys that have come here and been the best athlete on the field. And a lot of times they don't know as much as they think they know. Or they're not as fast as they think that they are, where they might be able to hit the sideline, go straight to the sideline and then go up the sideline and try to circle the defense. You can't circle defenses in this, at this level.
Again, Towles, like I said last week or earlier today, he might have slung that little guy off of him last year. He's not going to do it this year. And that's one of the hardest things about coaching a freshman.
And we have all been them. I was one of them too. I thought I knew everything. All right. Thank you.
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#75 Zach West, OG, R-Fr.
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#35 Cartier Rice, CB, Sr.
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#22 Khalid Henderson, LB, Fr.
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