Lexington, KY. (WKYT) - UK coach Joker Phillips Talked about his team Monday afternoon as the Cats begin getting ready to play Western Kentucky Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:00pm.
COACH PHILLIPS: Let's start off with the injury report. Trevino Woods had a high sprain, which he suffered on Tuesday of last week. He did not dress. He'll be doubtful for this week. And also Gabe Correll pulled a hip flexor in the game, and he's doubtful for this week.
CoShik (Williams) and (Josh) Forrest probable. Those guys will be day to day. We think we'll get those guys back this week. (Glenn) Faulkner and (Josh) Clemons will be out.
Western Kentucky was a real young team last year and improved tremendously from week to week and ended up winning 7 out of their last 8 games. The quarterback (Kawaun) Jakes right now is completing over 70 percent of his passes, which gives them another dimension in their offense. They already are a physical downhill running football team, and now they're a team that can throw the football also. So another dimension that you have to be able to defend.
They get a lot of production from their tailback position. Their tailbacks are averaging over five yards a carry. This recruiting business is
such that you look at the Andrews kid, and everybody was saying that he's an athlete but he wanted to be a quarterback. The guy is returning punts for them. He's playing tailback, doing an outstanding job. He's averaging about 18 yards a punt return, 23 yards a kick return, and doing an outstanding job for them.
He was a state champion quarterback at Fort Campbell, and a kid that I watched grow up in high school from recruiting down there. He's doing a really good job for them. The tight end is one of the top tight ends in the country, big, physical guy that understands how to set in windows, and he catches the ball and gets upfield, does a really good job.
Defensively, I think their defense and offense also benefit from playing against each other. Their offense is a real physical team, a power running offense, and to have to defend that daily, you have to be physical on defense, and the defense ranks 12th in the country. Led by the linebacker (Andrew) Jackson, No. 4. He had 17 tackles for a loss last year. He now already has 4 tackles for a loss (this season), and he's the leader for those guys on defense.
They had six quarterback sacks Sunday against Alabama, and the (Quanterus) Smith kid had three of those. That's a very good defense. They do a really good job of playing physical, stopping the run, and getting after people on "D." Huge challenge for us again.
We have got to be physical. That's what this team likes to do on all three phases ‑‑ offense, defense, and special teams. Again, huge challenge for us.
A lot of people always say, when you're running this type of offense, it's really tough on you. We run some downhill plays also. It's one of the things that we wanted to keep when we went to this offense, want to keep the ability to run downhill. We wanted to keep the ability to play multiple tight ends. So we did not want to be a team that defensively that you never saw those type of plays. So we'll see some of it against each other this week to try to get ready, prepared for this game.
We've always ‑‑ the last couple of weeks we went three‑on‑three on Tuesday, which is a full speed drill to set the tone and the attitude of practice. So we'll continue to do that to try to match how physical these guys will play. Any questions?
Q. Coach, looking back on the game Saturday, it was a good performance from the start. As you went home and looked on tape, what stood out to you?
COACH PHILLIPS: There's still some plays out there to be made offensively. We have a couple of drops that we thought they were catchable, catchable plays, a couple runs we just didn't press the line of scrimmage long enough and trust the blocks.
Again, one of the things we said Saturday is it was a little bit of inexperience by the freshman tailback (Dyshawn Mobley). I was wrong. To the naked eye, the guy cut back. He had nowhere to go. He had nowhere to go. He had to cut back. We didn't block it very clean. We stayed on the double‑team, doesn't come off to the back side, and he had nowhere to go.
Again, he ran to what he saw. So it was not him. It was we didn't do a good job up front.
Defensively, can't give up big plays. They had four X‑plays, that we consider X‑plays, 15‑yard run or 25‑yard pass. We can't give up those types of plays. Special forces, I thought we played clean except for one of the kickoff returns, where on the return we have a chance to tackle him on the 12 yard line. He bounces it, and they end up with the ball on our 44 with the penalty.
So those are the things that you can't do in tight ball games. You can't give up those big plays. You've got to get the ball in in the end zone when you get a short field like we did last week. You have to make sure you contain them in the special teams area.
Q. Randy (Sanders) said an interesting thing after the game about the deep ball, said that's the one thing he wants to be better at. Randy said you guys practice at such a breakneck speed that you're killing your receivers anyway. So you really can't work that a lot. How do you balance those two things?
COACH PHILLIPS: One thing is we have to set up drill work where our quarterbacks are ‑‑ we might put our receivers down the field about 30 yards, and as they hit their back foot, our receivers take off so they're not running as much. But we've got to get the ball down the field. We had an opportunity once with La'Rod (King). Our longest pass play has been about 23 yards other than (Demarcus) Sweat's run. Sweat had the 56‑yard run behind the line of scrimmage and broke a couple of tackles with a really good block by Morgan Newton after it.
But we have got to stretch the field. The play that we hit Aaron Boyd on was a post pattern. We were going in. That could have been a big one had we been out in the middle of the field also. We've got to get down the field and get some people off of you or we're not going to set in our routes if we don't take some shots down the field.
We had a couple called. Quarterback picks a side and works it. He didn't feel comfortable with it and dropped it off to our tailback, which gave us some pretty big gains. I like that he's taking what he likes and what he sees, but sometimes on our all go routes, we've got to give our receivers a chance. That's the thing, give our receivers a chance, go up, and let those guys make a play for you, and it also keeps them off of you. So we've got to continue to take some shots.
Q. Defensively, yards, you keep tabs of how many you've given up or how many you haven't. But how much better were you or how much progress did you make in terms of lines of communication and that kind of thing?
COACH PHILLIPS: We're a lot better. No doubt about that. We're a lot better of getting lined up, getting lined up in a hurry. Here's the thing. We don't see tempo throughout the year from offense also. So we have got to understand that we've got to get lined up in a hurry. You don't just get lined up, but you've got to get lined up in a hurry because we're going to see it. We're going to see a lot more tempo.
The first two teams ‑‑ although the first team that we played at times, especially on the goal line, did some tempo stuff. So we didn't get lined up to it a couple of times. The thing we have to do is not only get lined up, but get lined up in a hurry in case they shift, motion, do all the things that teams do that they have to reset your front.
But we were much better. We've got to continue to get better. A lot of that has to do with the communications with our linebackers, and our D‑line, I think, understands our packages, understands the call. We've just got to get the calls to them a little bit quicker.
Q. When you watch Max Smith operate the end of last season, spring, and the first two games, is it hard to sort of connect him to being the same guy that turned over on three straight plays early in his career?
COACH PHILLIPS: He's a pup. He was a pup last year. You just don't understand how tough it is, how really, really tough it is to go into those types of environments and make plays. He really didn't have many one reps. He was playing with a bunch of inexperienced receivers. Those guys are much more experienced or more comfortable. Some of those guys were uncomfortable last year in understanding our packages. A lot of it has to do just with him maturing.
We knew that he would someday ‑‑ I shouldn't say we knew. Every time you sign somebody, that's what you think, but we hoped this would be him someday. Again, we decided in five practices that this would benefit him, and it has. It's not only benefited him, it's benefited some young receivers. Our system is a little bit more simple also. It gives those guys a chance to find grass and catch the ball and get up the field for us.
Q. Maybe his mental makeup to show you something that a guy can pick himself up from ‑‑ I think he sprained his face (in the LSU game). I didn't even know that was an injury. He can pick himself up and go back out there and do what he did down the stretch.
COACH PHILLIPS: I think I sprained my face before, maybe in the LSU game too. (laughter)
No, it says a lot to him. The times that he had the chance to play, he didn't play real well. But he got a chance to play in the LSU game, late in the Florida game, South Carolina. He didn't play real well, but when he went in the game against Mississippi State, I don't know if he knew that Morgan was out for good and couldn't go, but he stepped up and played really well for us, played really well the next week.
So he got better every week. He looked like a different guy in practice when he knew he was the starter.
And then this spring ‑‑ now I got to ask this this weekend about the competition. Max went about his business this spring and this summer like he was the starter. And that's the thing. Every time we've had a guy win the job, they went about this thing. Andre Woodson, Mike Hartline, those guys went about the business like they were the starters. So what happens is they believe, get ingrained in their mind, hey, this is mine. And then the other guys start to see that also, this guy's our guy. Let's cling to him.
The reason why I know that, I had a quarterback like that, Bill Ransdell. He went on about his business then. Who am I going to latch on as a receiver? I'm going to latch on the guy that thinks it's his. That's why these receivers, I thought you saw a lot of that this spring and this off‑season.
Q. Last week you talked about simplifying some things on defense. What benefits do you think you got from that?
COACH PHILLIPS: A lot of benefits. We got the chance to get lined up. We got a chance to come off the ball, come out of your hips, get your hands on people, get them off of you. There wasn't a lot of movement side to side. There was a lot of movement going forward. Able to play with a little bit more weight on our hands.
So I thought we benefited ‑‑ again, still gave up too many big plays. And, again, one thing you do, when you simplify, you give guys a chance to win one‑on‑one battles. You can't stop everything. There's not a defense out there that stops every play every down. Sometimes guys got to win one‑on‑one battles. I don't think we gave our kids a chance in the first game to win one‑on‑one battles. I thought we did a better job of it this week to give our kids a chance to win one‑on‑one battles. That's what the game comes down to.
Q. What are you looking for in starting Wyndham and moving Bud to the weak side?
COACH PHILLIPS: Getting our best 11 on the field. It's a shame that a guy that's been around four or five years, played a lot of football, because we moved from a four‑three to a three‑four defense, he doesn't get to play as much. He's got to rotate with another senior. So it was just an opportunity to get Taylor Wyndham on the field along with Bud ‑‑ we actually moved Taylor this year from defensive end to a rush backer. So now he's backing up Dupree.
Taylor is kind of one of those guys that's a guy without a home. He didn't ‑‑ he's not a real big guy that could play with his hand in dirt. He's probably a better pass rusher. It's probably the best thing he does. At the rush linebacker, he's not a great athlete. He's a good athlete to play out there in space. So he's kind of a guy without a home. We played him inside last year at the three technique (defensive tackle), which is really difficult for a guy of his size, but he got in there and fought and scratched and did everything we asked him to do.
So we wanted to give him and Bud an opportunity to play at the same time. So we start repping him at the rush linebacker, and we felt like he was better than our will linebackers. Therefore, which one of those guys can play will? Bud can. So we moved ‑‑ similar to the thing we did with Tay Neloms. We moved him to safety. He give us a better chance to move the guy because he was the more physical safety, better guy last year. This year he's our better corner.
So we try to get our best men on the field. So we moved Bud to will linebacker.
Q. Saturday night, Bud seemed to think that move was maybe a temporary thing, and a guy like Khalid Henderson, one of these young guys, gets his feet under him. Is he one of those guys, maybe Henderson, that steps up?
COACH PHILLIPS: Possibly. They have to be really good, a lot better than Taylor Wyndham, to be on the field. Or a lot better than Bud Dupree to be on the field. It was not a temporary thing. It was a thing that we thought we needed to do to get better on defense.
Now, those guys come along and we feel those guys are playing better than Taylor or Bud, it could be temporary, but I kind of doubt that. I think these guys are much more experienced and much more knowledgeable about defense.
Q. Can you expand a little bit on what you think Morgan can give you at other positions other than quarterback. You mentioned it the other night, and kind of how you think he'll fit and ways that he can help you moving forward.
COACH PHILLIPS: We have to. We have to try to figure out different ways. Again, it's just hard. We've got just small packages. He didn't get a lot of reps last week, maybe five to ten reps last week at the things that we asked him to do. And he with asked him to do the block on the perimeter, on the touchdown. I don't know if he practiced that one time.
Some of those things he shouldn't have to practice if you've been the quarterback around here. But we'll continue to build on the packages that he can do. Last week he was more in the bunch package and running routes, and then we get in the game, and he didn't run any routes. He blocked the whole time and did a really good job.
He was at times a little bit more explosive than even our tight ends. And we don't really know how strong he is. I think he's a really strong kid. Nobody knows because quarterbacks don't work out like the tight ends, but I think he is a strong, physical guy.
Q. You had Morgan Newton and (Jalen) Whitlow on the field at the same time. Is that part of the package you want to develop?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, it wasn't anything. We didn't have a package for both of them. It was just, hey, Morgan, you go in at H‑back right now, and we wanted to get Whitlow a series. We'd like to have gotten Whitlow a series even earlier. We just didn't do a good job of scoring enough earlier or getting them stopped early enough.
Q. Why didn't you guys give up on Aaron and just move on to a freshman?
COACH PHILLIPS: We don't give up on anybody. This offense benefits Aaron also. It does. We're not a big vertical, down the field football team. You’re talking to a guy that wasn't real fast. That doesn't mean he can't play.
The thing you have to be, if you're not real fast, is a physical guy. You have to be a physical guy. And that's the thing that Aaron's bought into. That's the thing that he's bought into, it's being physical.
People would tell me, hey, you weren't fast. You're right. You're right. I get that, and I probably couldn't have played if I wasn't physical and wasn't willing to play special teams and those type of things. And the thing that Aaron's done is he's gotten to be a physical guy. You can't come up and press him because he's a lot more physical, and then he's doing an unbelievable job on perimeter in blocking. That's the reason why he's getting an opportunity.
I'm so proud of him. I am. Again, I've watched Aaron since he was like this. Nobody's more proud of Aaron than myself. And at times, I would pull him aside and try to coach him up myself. Hey, here's what you're going to do to play. Okay? At receiver that's not real fast, like he and I, you have to have all your weight on the front foot so you can explode off the ball. We can't waste steps. He would have his weight back, and that makes a guy that's not real fast slower.
Those are the things that he and I talked about, and he's now worked on being physical, and those are the things that gives ‑‑ especially a big guy that's not a real fast guy, a chance to play.
Q. Re: Coach Pat Washington
COACH PHILLIPS: He's too old. He's just too old. He can't relate to these young guys. Aaron doesn't respect him, all those things. (Joking/laughter)
You know what, Pat Washington is my age. Again, he's a knowledgeable guy. This game, everybody thinks that it's a young man's game ‑‑ and it is, no doubt about it. It's a young man's game on the field. Off the field, it's a guy that has knowledge and how to get your guys to play. Pat Washington has that. He has the knowledge and understanding of how to get his guys to play.
It's about relationships, regardless of how young, how old you are. It's about gaining the relationship with the guys and understanding who they are and what they can do, and that's what Pat Washington understands.
Q. You talked about Aaron's maturation process. Remember you said about him, how he knew the lyrics to Kanye West songs is all you could say.
COACH PHILLIPS: He did. He came up to me at practice, and a Kanye West song was on at practice, and he said, Coach, this is the song we all got in trouble with as freshmen. I didn't remember it. I said, what do you mean? You said that we knew the lyrics to it, and he did.
As a freshman, it was kind of a struggle with those guys at times understanding the offense, but Aaron's never had a problem with learning the offense.
Q. What is the difference with your other guys when you've got somebody like that that struggles to get in three or four years, and finally he's a senior. What does it do for the guys to see Aaron in the same spot?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's a great teaching tool. I have guys that walk on here in their second year ‑‑ actually, the first year. Come into my office and say, Coach, I don't know if I'm going to get an opportunity, or I just don't know if I'm going to be able to cut it.
Mikie Benton in year four was not invited to training camp. See this thing through. In year four, Mikie Benton was not invited to training camp. But yet he comes back, we have an injury, we invite him to training camp, and he starts for 12 games (in 2011).
So I say to walk‑ons, see this thing out. It's way too soon to give up on something like this. Same with Aaron Boyd. Guys come into your office and say, this is a struggle. I'm having a hard time. Aaron Boyd ‑‑ there was nobody more happier in the locker room than the rest of the players, not Aaron Boyd. Our guys were screaming, Aaron Boyd gets the game ball. I mean, we can't do that, but I would have loved to give him the game ball.
That's the thing that our guys have watched him, watched him grow up, and watched him take the coaching and watched how he responded this off‑season to things. Nobody's more happy for Aaron than this whole team. I mean, it's not just ‑‑ Aaron's happy, I'm sure he is. But our whole team is happy for Aaron Boyd. It only helps us sell to the rest of the guys.
(Bookie) Cobbins is not getting a lot of reps, and (Rashad) Cunningham. These guys just need ‑‑ they're still young. They just need to continue to work, continue to learn, continue to do the things that we ask them to do.
Q. How did Western get so much pressure on Alabama's quarterback?
COACH PHILLIPS: They're really talented. Those guys win a lot of one‑on‑one battles, they did. The defensive end won his battles, and the linebacker won a few battles. That's the thing. Those guys do a really good job of putting pressure on the quarterback and making it uncomfortable for them. The coverage teams helped them also. They did good things in the back end also.
Q. You simplified on defense. Was there any tweaks or changes to the scheme?
COACH PHILLIPS: No. We still base that out of the same structure. We play a little bit more four down, which is still in our package. But there wasn't any terminology change. We have a lot of defense. Therefore, we just call it a small package of it. And gave those guys a chance to line up and play.
Q. [ Inaudible ].
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, it was a call. You can't stop everything, but you got to stop something. Stop the best thing they do and then allow our guys to win some one‑on‑one battles.
Q. Can you talk about Pancho Thomas, what he brings to the table?
COACH PHILLIPS: Physical guy. He's a box player. He's not a guy that's going to be out in space. The guy really loves to play the game. Again, he was one of those guys I saw that the closer we got to the game, he changed. His demeanor changed. His attitude changed.
Same with Daryl two weeks ago. I saw Daryl Collins before the game and saw the same guy I saw in practice. I saw the same guy I saw in practice. I didn't see ‑‑ and I told you guys, he was a different guy on Sunday of last week. He was the same guy Saturday as he is in practice, and I said that to him before the game.
Actually, I shouldn't say. I punched him in the chest and said, hey, where are you? We need that same Daryl Collins. And that's the thing. Pancho, I mean, he's a different guy in the game. We need Daryl Collins to be that same guy that we saw last Sunday. He was ‑‑ I mean, I didn't recognize him, and I don't want to recognize him on game day because we need Daryl Collins.
Q. Can you talk about the benefit of bringing younger guys in. What kind of benefit do you see with the older guys?
COACH PHILLIPS: I think you hear so much about these young guys, it helps those old guys step up their game too. Aaron heard about those young receivers, I'm sure, how talented they are, and they are. They are talented. But Aaron worked his tail off. Again, his niche early was blocking.
Everybody is going to catch passes in this offense. Everybody is going to catch passes. You've seen that, we had 11 guys in the first game, 10 in the second game. Find your niche to get yourself on the field first. Aaron's niche was, hey, where we were not a good perimeter blocking team, and their head coach is a guy that we must be a great perimeter blocking team. And the two guys that block the best is Aaron Boyd and E.J. Fields. Those guys are playing. That allowed those guys to get on the field. And now they both are benefitting from being on the field because you're going to catch passes if you're in this offense.
Q. Re: players talking in pregame last season
COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know what they said. Again, we don't get into that. I respect this game way too much to ‑‑ there's really nothing anybody can say to get me ready to play this game. I mean, shoot, just give us an opportunity. We're only guaranteed 12 opportunities. That should be enough. That should be enough to get anybody ready to play.
Q. Re: Missouri and Texas A&M first games in the SC
COACH PHILLIPS: It's a tough league. They play tough also. Both of them were ahead at one time and another, I think, in the game. The quality SEC opponents, both of those teams are.
Q. Was the offensive linemen a pleasant surprise for you so far?
COACH PHILLIPS: They have. I wouldn't say surprise. We expect it from them, but they have done really well protecting our quarterback, opening up running lanes, communicating, and that's more the left side than it is, I think, the right side, and the middle.
I really thought that ‑‑ because the left side are two guys (Darrian Miller and Zach West), that I'm telling you, I thought they would try to text each other during the game. (laughter) They don't talk. They don't. They don't talk. But they do on game day.
When we put (Jordan) Swindle in the game, Coach Summers says, let's leave Zach West in so he can help Swindle. I said Zach's going to talk? Apparently, he and Miller ‑‑ you don't see one without the other. Again, they must have their ways of communicating, but they don't talk to each other. But that's what I'm surprised about is how those two guys are communicating and haven't missed twist or missed a blitz coming from the outside. They've done a really good job of communicating, especially to the left side.
Q. Using telepathy?
COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know what they have. They are something. I don't know. I thought both of them was mute at first. (laughter)
Q. One of them Missouri players described the style Georgia played as old man football, which probably describes a lot of SEC style that way. What's to be said for old man football?
COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know. We got six of them, though. Six championships. I don't know what old man football ‑‑ I used to see this old man would tell me football hasn't changed in a hundred years. It's still blocking and tackling. That's what it is. Who can block and who can tackle.
Q. What did Whitlow do to elevate himself from Patrick Towles?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's different. Different quarterback. Again, we have to get the third guy ready, and I just think a guy that can win with his legs and some of our passing game, I just thought he would be the guy we'd go with. It has nothing to do with the future, but we just thought we had to make a decision, and we made the decision to go with Whitlow.