LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky safety Matt Lentz has decided to give up his playing career because of concussions, Coach Joker Phillips announced Wednesday.
“It breaks my heart because I was a huge part of getting Matt here,” Phillips said. “Knowing how much this program means to him and his family and for him to have to give up football … He’ll be a part of our program still. He’ll be a student-coach. We’re excited about having him on our staff.”
Phillips noted that Lentz will apply to remain on scholarship because of medical hardship. A junior from Simpsonville, S.C., he can graduate in the summer or fall of 2010 with a degree in management.
Lentz came to UK in 2007 as a quarterback and redshirted that season. He moved to safety in the spring of 2008. He played in 25 games during the last two years, including six starting assignments. He totaled 46 tackles, two interceptions and two pass breakups. He had a career-high seven tackles in the 2008 win over Arkansas and his interceptions came in Wildcat victories in 2008 at Louisville and 2009 vs. the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
First Practice Under Phillips: Kentucky’s spring football practice began Wednesday morning with the first workout under new head coach Joker Phillips. The Wildcats practiced for two hours and 25 minutes under sunny skies at the Nutter Training Center.
It was a new experience for Phillips, who always had a position responsibility in previous years.
“I didn’t know what to do (at first),” Phillips said. “I had my hand in my pocket and (was) twiddling the whistle. Then I just tried to dive in, started talking about effort, talking about fundamentals. Those are the things that I think I have to stress.”
With the team in helmets, jerseys and shorts during the first practice, Phillips was asked what he evaluated.
“Effort,” Phillips said. “That’s the thing we’re looking for in shorts is effort and assignments. It’s hard to be really sharp fundamentally because you don’t have pads on. Just watching the effort and seeing where their eyes are. If your eyes are in the right place, you know if they’re executing their assignments.”
“I really liked the energy (in practice). People are communicating. That’s the thing you have to do in this sport, especially. I think we have to practice a little bit faster. We practiced fast and we got a lot of reps (repetitions), but we’ve got to get more reps, especially for the young guys. We’re limited in time so the thing we’ve got to do is practice faster so we can get more reps.”
The quarterback position obviously is a point of emphasis this spring and Phillips was asked about redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski.
“He (Mossakowski) threw better today than he did last year at this time and in the fall,” Phillips said. “There were a lot of balls going all over the place, too. We’ve got to get more consistent throwing the ball. Morgan (Newton) didn’t have a good day. Mike (Hartline) had some good and bad throws. And also Moss had some good and bad throws. The thing we’re trying to emphasize this spring is being able to be efficient throwing the ball.”
The Wildcats return to the field Friday morning at 9 a.m. and practice is open to the public and media.