Joker Phillips Weekly Press Conference Coverage
Nov. 21, 2011
Head Coach Joker Phillips
COACH PHILLIPS: The injury report, Danny Trevathan chipped his second tooth of the year.
(Christian) Coleman has an elbow injury. We thought maybe he hyperextended it. It's bruised. He's better. Should practice tomorrow.
Tim Patterson -- he'll have minor surgery tomorrow to remove the screw on the knee that he had surgery on last fall, end of last fall.
(Martavius) Neloms is coming out of his boot, but he's still doubtful. He's able to get up on his toe but still doubtful for the Tennessee game.
Ridge Wilson, we have not seen the last two days. He had some family illness, and we'll be able to evaluate him tomorrow.
Winston Guy will be practicing, noncontact. He'll be in a red jersey. Really pleased with the way he sucked it up and went last week because he was really, really banged up.
And then Max Smith has improved from Sunday to Monday. Again, still just day to day on him. So that's the injury report.
I said last week we're playing for an extra game. With that being out of reach, I know we're playing for still a goal out there, and our goal is to win our last game. We haven't won our last game since 2009 in the Liberty Bowl. And winning your last game does a lot for you in the off-season. Also, we haven't beat Tennessee in a while. So I think that would fulfill another goal also.
But it's a really good Tennessee football team. If you look at Tennessee's losses, they've lost to number 1, number 2, number 3, number 13, number 14, and then number 16 Florida. So still a good football team. Offensively, second in the league in passing. They got their quarterback back, (Tyler) Bray. Looked really sharp last week.
The rushing game, they play two tailbacks, (Tauren) Poole and Rajion Neal, who's a slash guy for them, similar to the way we used Randall (Cobb) last three years. He's a guy that plays Wildcat from the quarterback position. He'll play wide receiver. He'll play running back. Really good athlete, does a lot of things for them offensively.
Defensively, they've played 1 through 7 (in the SEC) in scoring offense. So they've played some really good offenses in this league. Austin Johnson leads them in tackles. That's four interceptions. He's their middle linebacker. They're really stout up front. Again, big challenge for us this week.
Q. re: Danny Trevathan
COACH PHILLIPS: Danny means a lot to this program, and most of his production has come in the last two years. Watching the way he went about his business has been special. The guy last week was really probably the best game I've seen him play. Many would say other games would be. He had 17 tackles. He's done that before. But just how he was patient and calling at the right time.
A lot of times you watch this game, Danny couldn't see the runner. He just has the instinct and the knack to understand that, if I stay on this side just long enough, the running back is going to cut off the blocker to the other side, and he'd stay on that side just long enough to let the back commit and then come out the other side and make the play.
Just the way he just glides across the field, waits till the last minute to strike. He's just amazing to watch. He alone willed the defense to play the way they played Saturday. We continue to tell them to come up to his level, and everyone on defense that tried to play better than they were capable of. I think a lot of that had to do with the way Danny Trevathan played.
He makes plays when needed. Caused fumbles, had sacks. I think he caused two fumbles and had a big sack, three tackles for loss. He's just that guy that can get everybody lined up, and that's been real helpful for us.
Q. re: not being in Butkus Award finalists
COACH PHILLIPS: It would be hard for me to find 12 better linebackers than Danny as far as production. He's playing in a pretty good league, and the production that he has had the last two years, if he matches his last couple of weeks, we're talking a guy that could have over 150 tackles in this league in one season. That's amazing within itself.
So I'm hard pressed to find 12 other guys that's better than him, in my opinion.
Q. re: status of Maxwell Smith
COACH PHILLIPS: We expect Max to go. The improvement that he made from Saturday to Sunday and from Sunday to today, he's working to get himself back. He has a shoulder sprain, and it's his throwing shoulder, but he's working to try to get his range of motion back. Again, it's a lot better than it was yesterday and a lot better than it was Saturday.
If he can't go, Morgan will take some of the snaps.
Q. Is that a game day decision?
COACH PHILLIPS: It could go up to game day, just depending how much -- how fast and how much Max improves between now and Thursday or Friday.
Reps? This guy takes reps in practice. What we've done in the past, I've learned this from when we had Billy Jack Haskins, way back in the day, that he couldn't do very much with his arm in the sling the week of the game. Also, you can give him mental reps back there. Somebody could be taking the snaps while he's making the calls. Might try to do something like that just to get him some mental reps and let him make all the calls and call the snap count and those things we could possibly do. Those are things that we've talked about. We like him taking snaps, but Morgan's got to take some snaps also.
Morgan's health -- I think you asked that. Again, a lot better. He could definitely protect himself. I'm not sure how his throwing arm is. How far he can throw and how much he can throw the football. He definitely can throw it a lot better than he could this time last week.
Q. re: breaking the streak vs. Tennessee
COACH PHILLIPS: I'm not going to talk about the streak. I'll talk about the goal of ours to win the last game. Our goal, when we started off (the season is) to win our last game, is to be in a bowl game to win our last game. How big would it have been last year if we'd have won our last (game)? We'll talk about that goal and the goal that's out there. The goal out there is to win our last game. That's why it's important to us.
Q. re: how a win could affect recruiting
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, any time you win it helps in recruiting. That's the name of the game. People think that kids come for the glitz and the glitter. Kids come for the wins. That's why you see teams like Boise -- kids go to Boise because they win. That's the reason why kids go there.
And I think it's very helpful for us when we win. We're able to attract recruits.
Q. re: more on the game
COACH PHILLIPS: The thing it comes down to is who can run the ball, who can protect the ball. Last year we didn't protect the football. We had our opportunities. We let the ball get away from us a couple times. In the end, it doesn't give you a chance to win big games, especially when you're on the road. The thing we have to do is take care of the football. We've got to stop the run, and we've got to be able to run the ball and make plays in the passing game.
Q. re: Are you treating it like a bowl game? You're playing the last game.
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah. That's the thing we talked about as soon as the Georgia game was over is our guys did a really good job getting ourselves mentally and physically ready to play in that game when we had an extra game riding on it. We have to get ourselves mentally and physically prepared to play when we're playing for our personal pride. We're playing for these seniors that have given so much for this program.
I'm sure the seniors are taking it as a Bowl game. It's the last game that many of them will play, put on a uniform, period, will ever play football. Again, it's not like basketball where I played basketball till I was about 38 years old till I got the second knee injury. It's not like baseball where you can play softball until you're 400 pounds and can still hit the ball, hit it out, and you can still play behind the plate. It's not like those games.
Many of these guys -- that's why it's so emotional for football players when they play in their last game because you don't get to play it again. This is it for a lot of those guys. For Danny and some of the other guys (it's not the last game), but it's it for a lot of those guys. That's why it's so emotional when you know it's your last game.
Q. re: trying to win the game for the seniors
COACH PHILLIPS: I think we need to win this for the program and who's been representing this program better than these seniors? It all goes hand in hand.
Q. Re: not going to a bowl game enables more recruiting time
COACH PHILLIPS: That is the positive. We'll be able to get all seven guys out to start selling, selling the program, selling opportunities. Give me an opportunity to get into some homes early, before Christmas also.
Q. re: what enabled Tyler Bray to have success in the 2010 game
COACH PHILLIPS: We didn't make plays. We got pressure on him, and he threw a few balls up. We had an opportunity to make some plays, interceptions and stuff, but the thing we didn't do, we didn't play the ball well. We've got to continue. He's a lot better quarterback than he was last year, no doubt about that.
But if we do get pressure and one goes up in the air, we've got to make a play on it, period. We had numerous opportunities last year to make a play on some of the balls. We've got to continue to get pressure on him. Their offensive line is really, really good, big players. And they're young, sophomores and juniors. They played every snap last year as freshmen and sophomores, and they are playing really good for them right now.
One transfer, transfer from Notre Dame, is playing for them also at center.
Q. re: toughness of Maxwell Smith and how you can't know the toughness of a QB until he plays in a game
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, you can't know. You have no clue who's willing or able to take those type of hits as a quarterback.
You talk about toughness, your quarterback has got to be one of the toughest guys on your football team, there's no doubt about that. Because when he gets hit, he's in awkward positions, and he's got to be one that's not only mentally but physically tough also. Dick (Gabriel) and I talked about this last week with my college roommate Bill Ransdell. One of the things Bill Ransdell was, he's tough, which made everyone else around him tough. That's what Max Smith has proven is that he's a tough kid.
Okay. Thank you, guys.