UK coach Joker Phillips updated the Wildcats injury status Monday saying quarterback Max Smith is day-to-day and defensive tackle Mister Cobble is doubtful. He called his teams matchup with No. 6 South Carolina Saturday anohter huge challenge.
COACH PHILLIPS: Our injured situation here: I'll give you some doubtfuls and some questionables. Cobble is doubtful. Correll, Forrest, Aumiller. Questionable: CoShik; Kevin Mitchell; Maxwell Smith, be day‑to‑day. We'll make a decision (later in the week). Lowery and Cartier Rice.
Got another tough opponent. Number six team in the country. Defensively, third in our conference in defense, rushing defense giving up 67 yards a game; fourth in total defense, second in sacks, second in scoring defense, less than ten points a game and Clowney leads them with four‑and‑a‑half sacks this year.
And talk about Clowney, I think one of the things the NCAA should do is issue every team two of those type of guys, to make everything even. I would like to have Clowney and Taylor is what they should issue everybody. (laughs)
Offensively, passing, they're fourth in the league at 259 yards. Lattimore is averaging 4.6, one of the best running backs in the country. And Shaw has completed 76 percent of his passes, including 20 of those (in a row) last week. So gotta get pressure on him and gotta make sure we challenge the receiver.
Special forces: Ace Sanders is one of the most dangerous guys I've ever seen in punt returns. They haven't had a lot of kickoff return opportunities, and they're one of the least penalized teams in our conference. They overtook us. Last week we had seven, and we were one of the least penalized teams; and now we are second behind South Carolina.
So another huge challenge for us. Got them at home. We're excited to be back home in front of our fans. Questions?
Q. When do you anticipate you'll be able to make a decision on Max?
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, day to day. He’s a lot further along on Sunday than he was last Sunday, obviously. A lot of it had to do with us not playing him this week. We would have had some risks in playing him, so we decided not to (play him) to give us a chance to make a decision for this week.
Q. A lot of people said last year Peyton Manning might be the MVP because of just how valuable he proved to be when he was out, how much the team struggled without him. Did you see a little bit of that Saturday?
COACH PHILLIPS: We did. We saw some of that with Max, but we expect the next guy to go in and get it done. We just didn't. Max is very valuable.
Anytime you lose your starting quarterback, he's your starting quarterback for a reason. He's not the starting quarterback because he (undecipherable) quarterback. He's starting quarterback because he's your best quarterback.
And we've had to make decisions on who our starting quarterback is at the start of the season three seasons, and every year we started it was the right decision. And it was the right decision with Max. He's our starter, and you lose your starter, you do lose a valuable person in your offense.
Q. Will you rethink how you will prep your No. 2 quarterback this week because Max may not be able to go versus last week?
COACH PHILLIPS: We've been prepping Jalen to be our Number 2 since the Louisville game. We worked Morgan to be the Number 2 going up to the Louisville game, but after the Louisville game we started prepping Jalen to be our Number 2. When Max went down, we just felt like he (Jalen) wasn't ready, wasn't quite ready to go in in that type of environment.
I've been down there when we put a freshman quarterback in there, and it's pretty tough. And we just felt like we wanted to start Morgan. And we did. Didn't work out. Didn't play as well as we would have liked. But we still think that that was the right decision.
Q. If the game was at Commonwealth, would Jalen have started?
COACH PHILLIPS: Who knows. Again, still ‑‑ this is not just the environment. It's the team that you're playing against also. It's a really good football team defensively. So who knows.
Q. Did you just feel like you had one hand tied behind your back in that game?
COACH PHILLIPS: No. I mean I didn't feel that way. I just feel like we just couldn't make a play. All we needed was a play here, play there. We had a couple of guys running open. We also missed some cuts, missed some blocks on the perimeter that would have given us a chance after we did catch the ball. But I don't feel like we had our hands tied behind our back.
Q. Did you rethink at all Patrick Towles as one of the starters?
COACH PHILLIPS: You know, I'm comfortable with where we're at, because I think we'll get Max back. That's our feeling, that we'll get Max back.
Again, we decided to allow Jalen to be our third, and we really think that Pat Towles will be a really good quarterback in time, and we just think that this is the best thing for him and for our program at this point.
Q. What's the diagnosis on Max's shoulder?
COACH PHILLIPS: He just reaggravated an old injury from last year. So it was a deal where if he'd gotten hurt, ‑‑ if you'd have seen him in warmups, he wasn't 100 percent and if he'd have gotten hurt, they think he could have been out for a significant time, and it wasn't worth risking. It wasn't worth risking, like I said on Saturday. I was treating him like he was ‑‑ you guys would want your son to be treated.
Q. What exactly was the old injury that he re-aggravated?
COACH PHILLIPS: His shoulder. He had a sprained shoulder, AC joint from last year.
Q. Could you describe Cobble’s injury?
COACH PHILLIPS: If you saw the last series, Mister Cobble in the last series of the Western game the guy who sprinted from back side to knock the quarterback out when we missed the tackle coming off the back side. And after the game he had played really hard in that game, did a really good job, but after the game he had some flu‑like symptoms, some infection set in, they think in some of his joints. They think it might have set in first in his wrist, moved to his leg. And you know, so we admitted him to try to cure some of the infection that they thought he had.
Q. Is he still in the hospital?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, he's not. He's out. He feels a lot better, but again, for a few days he hasn't eaten anything. Just gotta make sure he gets his strength back. He's a day‑to‑day guy also. We don't know exactly when he'll practice or if he'll practice this week.
Q. So they got the infection under control
COACH PHILLIPS: They did.
Q. Matt Smith said that South Carolina’s defensive front is as tough to play against as anybody’s … Why is that?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's speed, power, length. I mean they got guys inside that do a really good job of pushing, pushing the pocket. They got two 6' 6 guys on the edges that are really good speed rushers, and they do a really good job in coverage also. So just overall, again, giving up 67 yards rushing in four games, pretty dang good. And you know, they've given up a little over 200 yards in the passing game, but a lot of that's near the end of the game.
Q. Do they move people around a lot and make it complex or simple things?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's been really, really simple. This is probably as simple of South Carolina team that we've seen. Why would you? If you got front four like these guys do, you don't have to. They get pressure on the quarterback. They're second in sacks, and that's just with their front four. Why would you? As simple as you possibly can and stop people from rushing or stop people from running the ball.
Q. Before the season you were as comfortable with Craig McIntosh at kicker more than any other position on the roster … Has your confidence changed or what has been the reason for his misses. I know they were long attempts.
COACH PHILLIPS: It's not us having confidence in him. Again, we've been right on him. It seems like the teams that we've had a chance to kick the ball, it's been around 42‑plus. It hasn't been anything under 40 that we've had an opportunity to kick. So it's been really tough kicks for him. We haven't lost confidence in him, and just me talking to him on Saturday after the game, he hasn't lost confidence. He's rearing and willing to go out there and kick.
And again, I told him this year he's going to have to go in and kick field goals to help us win. I really believe that. So we have a lot of belief in him and he has a lot of belief in himself.
Q. He hasn’t missed by much though has he …
COACH PHILLIPS: Very little. There's the game of those little inches. You know, the 50‑something‑yarder the other day was really close. All the other ones have been really close also because they can get you points.
Q. Matt Smith thing about the South Carolina loss last year, that it was the worst loss he can remember as a player. It still kind of sticks with him. Does it stick with you, too?
COACH PHILLIPS: All of them stick with you. You never lose that feeling. So all of them stick with you. It's just one of them.
Q. Spurrier comes out at the end and says you guys have a good punter …
COACH PHILLIPS: We got good a punter this year, too. (Laughs).
Q. Do you put that on your bulletin board?
COACH PHILLIPS: No. Steve's going to say things like that. If I put everything that Steve said up there, we wouldn't have any space on our board. So no, it doesn't. (laughs)
Q. If for whatever reason Max couldn't go, do you know at this point if you would go with Morgan or Jalen?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, don't know at this point. But probably Jalen. I don't know exactly if we go with Morgan or Jalen. But I think Jalen would probably deserve based on the way we performed Saturday. But again, we've gotta go through this week and see how everything works out.
Q. How do you evaluate Max in terms of even day to day?
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, we gotta evaluate ‑‑ we will not throw on Tuesday. We'll see how well he performs on Wednesday and Thursday. Then make the decision based on that.
Q. How do you go about getting Jalen enough reps to feel comfortable?
COACH PHILLIPS: He's getting the two reps. And again, we still gotta get Max the one reps. He can hand the ball off. So we still gotta get Max ready. So it's hard to give either one of the guys 100 percent of the one reps. So we've gotta get him all of the two reps and some of the one reps. But we also have to get Max some of the reps. He can hand the ball off; he can make some of the checks in the pass game, but not throw the football. So there's a lot of things that we still have to do with him, in case he is the guy on Saturday.
Q. Do you need to get him more reps in games?
COACH PHILLIPS: It is, yeah. We haven't had an opportunity until this past game, and he got a few, not nearly enough. Not enough to make a difference.
Q. Is Max the kind of person you have to hold out for his own good?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah. He wanted to play. He's a competitor. You know, I get that. But again, we just thought it was the best thing for him and for this football program.
Q. How you feel like Cody Quinn held up?
COACH PHILLIPS: Really good. He played as well as any freshman I've ever been around. The guy challenged receivers, made a huge play in the first series. He drove on a quick screen that he took on a blocker and ran through the blocker and made the play.
We're excited about him. And all three of those true freshmen that played out there on the perimeter. It's not an easy place to play in this league as a true freshman. And those guys, I thought those guys held up well, especially him.
Q. Coach, could you talk about Connor Shaw's development?
COACH PHILLIPS: He's a tough guy. I think last year may have been his really first true start against us last year, and they did some things. They kind of tweaked their offense that week against us, and you see a lot of the same things that they did against us last year they're doing this year.
But the guy is really accurate. He actually ran ‑‑ you guys may not get the highlights of it because he was called back, an 80‑yard touchdown run last week against Missouri, an SEC opponent that the quarterback outran for 80 yards. So he's a guy that can run the football. He's really accurate. He's a coach's son, so he's like a coach on the field. He's a challenge for us.
Q. Re: Marcus Lattimore. What does he do for them?
COACH PHILLIPS: Big physical back that always falling forward. He protects the football. He's done a really good job of protecting the football, and he catches the ball well out of the backfield.
Q. Your offensive line you didn't know what to expect I think in the beginning. Against this South Carolina defense do you feel better going in there with them?
COACH PHILLIPS: Feel better. Last week I thought that this was the best defensive front that we had played against. And our guys rushed for right at 160 yards and we really outrushed them to the fourth quarter when we put some of our backups in. I think they had rushed for 120‑something yards. So I feel really good.
I thought this offensive line did as good as any we've been around against the Florida team because we ran the ball for five yards a carry. And they protected. I don't think we even got hit once at the quarterback position as we were delivering the football. So I do feel a little bit better ‑‑ a lot better with this offensive line.
And also, Miller practiced on Thursday and only practiced half the practice. In a 35‑minute period he may have practiced 20 minutes of that, and Matt Smith practiced on Thursday the whole 35 minutes. And that's the only practice time those two guys got.
We were working Larry at guard, center, you know, so he was going back and forth also during the week. So I was really pleased with the way those guys handled it. And I got a chance to watch the video on the plane and talk to Coach Summers about it. I thought those guys did really well up front, opening up some holes and understanding the protection and all the blitzes that we were giving. They did a good job of protecting us.
Q. Matt Smith seemed to think you guys were less physical against Western than you were against Florida.
COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know that. I just thought that they did a good job this past week for sure.
Q. I remember last year before this game you said if you were an NFL GM you would take Clowney first overall as a freshman?
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, they should issue everybody one of those. I'm just telling you. He's even better this year. He's a lot faster, a lot quicker off the ball, uses his hands better. Again, he would be the number one pick this year if I was a GM, if he was coming out. They should let him come out, I think. They should let him ‑‑ huh? Yeah. We could pick him up in the supplemental draft or something and that's one of the guys I was telling you we gotta manage the "oh, shoots." When he's coming at you with a screwed‑up protection, what do I do with the ball? Oh, shoot. Here he comes.
Q. Do you go at a guy like that or do you try to contain him? What do you do when one guy can cut off almost the entire part of the field?
COACH PHILLIPS: First of all, I wouldn't want to give up anything we want to do, especially wouldn't say we want to go at him. Why would I say and get that guy mad at us also like Brent Pease was? I don't want to do that.
No, we gotta run our offense, but also be aware of where ‑‑ because again, you're talking about go‑to guys, go‑to receivers and all that. Meanwhile if you're focusing on the go‑to receivers and somebody is open, you gotta go through all. We were 100 percent about Clowney. There's a guy over here on the other side, Devin Taylor who's 6' 6, and he's kind of getting lost in all the excitement of Clowney, and wanting to get a couple other guys inside.
Last year Taylor kind of got lost in Ingram and Clowney. And Taylor's made a lot of plays at South Carolina since he's been there. So we've gotta make sure we're aware of where he's at but also make sure we're aware of where Devin Taylor is at also.
Q. The pass rush this week and the next few weeks in the SEC, is this part of the reason why that quick‑pass offense ‑‑
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah. We get the ball out of our hands a lot quicker. We have people in the flats a lot quicker also, have a lot of different sets, bunch sets. We can put a tight end over there to chip in. We have tight end on one side, tailback on another side and chip their way out from being in the flat, so a lot of things we can do to try to slow down the pass rushing. We've been a big screen team also that's helped slow down the pass rush, which you have to do. You have to get the ball out of your hands quick, have to have some screen capacity and also play actions, those type of things is what slow down the pass rush.
Q. If Kevin Mitchell is out will Trevino Woods be there?
COACH PHILLIPS: He would, but we think Kevin will be fine. We think he'll play. He's a lot better today than he was yesterday for sure, but we think he'll be fine. And Trevino's got an ankle also. So if either one of those guys can't go, we'll go at the lineup with another true freshmen, in Swindle who played probably 15 snaps Saturday. I looked at the defense once and it was six freshmen, five true freshmen and a redshirt freshmen. We'll just play another one.
Q. You told us on Saturday that Ashely Lowery had a head injury. Is that a concussion now?
COACH PHILLIPS: He had concussion‑like symptoms, but they don't think he had a concussion, no.
Q. Since Spurrier's been at South Carolina they've been known more for defense than offense. What do you make of that?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's the state. I got a chance to coach in that state, and that's one of the reasons we started recruiting that state because there's so many defensive players. The year I was at South Carolina the Super Bowl might have been … there was New England and someone and there was seven kids from the state of South Carolina and none had played at South Carolina or Clemson. And that's one of the reasons why I said, wherever I go, we need to recruit this state every year because there's so many players and not all of them are going to Clemson or South Carolina.
So many guys that, again, don't get rated, aren't rated real high, a lot of Rafael Littles, or you know, that they can't take. They're not taking. But there's a lot of numbers and defensive players, especially defensive linemen, they got ten defensive linemen on their two deep. Eight of them are from the state of South Carolina. And then you look up the road at Clemson, there's probably eight more.
We talked a lot to some of the guys on the staff, (indecipherable) we gotta find some offensive linemen. We got too many defensive linemen in this state. Do you ever remember that problem occurring here?