LEXINGTON, Ky. - (WKYT)athletics director Mitch Barnhart a couple of times every week, and Barnhart is encouraging but Phillips said his future as coach has not been discussed. Phillips also called freshman quarterback Patrick Towles doubtful for Saturday's game with Georgia.
COACH PHILLIPS: First our injury situation, Max Smith, out, CoShik Williams is out. Faulkner, out. Correll, out.
Doubtful will be Mikie Benton, Patrick Towles, Cartier Rice. Day‑to‑day (Fred) Tiller, (Martavius) Neloms and (Ashely) Lowery.
And then the first thing I'd like to say would be congratulations to Dermontti Dawson, teammate and Hall of Famer, getting honored this week. Looking forward to seeing him and getting a chance to visit with him.
We also play a top 20 team again. Georgia comes in here at 5‑1. Great offensive stats. Second in our league in passing ‑‑ I'm sorry, fourth in passing, second in points per game with 41. Third in rushing and second in total offense.
Defensively, probably have the best player in the league in Jarvis Jones. They have two 350‑pound, 50‑plus. I'm sure during the off‑season they was 350, they are probably 360, 370 now, nose guards.
Special forces, they are averaging 23 yards a return on the kickoff return and (indecipherable). Another huge challenge for us but a hell of an opportunity.
Q. You said Patrick Towles was doubtful …
COACH PHILLIPS: He's one that could now get up on his toes, and that's usually a good sign when you have a high ankle sprain.
So we'll take a look at it, probably about Wednesday, see what he can do. He moved around a little bit, not great today. But we'll take a look at it tomorrow and Wednesday, also.
Q. Facing another quarterback with a strong throwing arm against a young defensive backfield … Can you talk about getting some pressure on the quarterback?
COACH PHILLIPS: And that's what you have to do when you're so young in the back end. You have to get more pressure on the quarterback. You can't be comfortable back there. That's what happened on Saturday. We didn't get enough pressure on him and we've got to take advantage of a young secondary. Some holes, obviously, when you place young guys, sometimes they are out of position and sometimes they are in position but just got to take advantage of them.
We have to get more pressure in this guy's face; or play coverage, play more coverage. Maybe drop eight more. So you've got to do either/or; you can't get with him with your front four. You either blitz, and if you can't get with him with the blitz and you must drop eight.
Q. During one of the rain delays you were talking about a former player of yours fighting the battle?
COACH PHILLIPS: That was after the game. We have a former player that ‑‑ again, we are teaching life lessons here. It's a heck of an opportunity to teach life lessons.
I got a text last week from a former player that is battling liver and lung cancer and at the end of his text it said, "All I know how to do is pray and fight." And I mentioned it to someone in passing, and they couldn't believe, could not believe that a guy facing that would say those words, "all I know how to do is fight."
It kind of caught me off guard, because, look, what do you think we teach, do you think we teach these guys to lose? We teach the guys to fight; with everything that comes up in their lives. It's not just football. You have to fight in the classroom for your grades. They are competing for grades in the classroom. This guy is competing for his life, just wanted to share that with our football team. He's under 40, but that's all he knows is to fight.
Q. Can you tell us his name?
COACH PHILLIPS: I don't know if I need to say his name but he is a former player that's battling a tough situation right now. Which is a bigger fight than we are fighting now and that's how I look at it and that's one of the reasons I mentioned it to the football team.
Q. Does that offer perspective ‑‑
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, just another teaching moment in how ‑‑ we are in a battle, no, question about that, but there are bigger battles out there than what we are in.
Q. You seeing any quit in any of the players?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, you and I talked on Saturday, you talked about the effort and sometimes in a game like that, it looks like ‑‑ it might look like the common folk, that they are not giving effort, but if you watched the two long touchdown passes, Cody Quinn is straining, busting his tail from the back side. I think our guys are giving us great effort. We have to do a better job of executing.
Q. Question regarding the growth of the young players who are getting playing time …
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, there's definitely some growth. We originally started playing some of them, most of them, on special teams. We saw some benefits of that and now that they have to play huge roles offense, defense. It's definitely been a benefit playing them on special teams and you're starting to see a guy like Cody Quinn right now is playing as good as anybody we've had around here. He's challenging receivers. He's running around, coming up, making tackles. He's probably one of our better tacklers in the secondary right now, especially with the other guys being out.
He's growing up. Jalen (Whitlow), every snap he gets is only good for him being able to grow in this program. Dyshawn Mobley is starting to play a little bit more on special teams and getting a little bit more confidence and does a really good job when he gets in the game at the running back position.
Last week, I was talking to our staff about Bud Dupree. He's only been here a year and a half, and so he's still young and he still continues to improve. He's playing inside linebacker instead of outside linebacker. Zach West is improving. So we've got a lot of young guys that's making some improvement.
Q. How much encouragement does that give you as you look ahead to the rest of the schedule?
COACH PHILLIPS: We need to get some guys back, no question about that. We need to get some guys back healthy and hopefully we'll get some of these guys that are day‑to‑day, especially Neloms and Lowery, who helped us in the secondary, especially playing against another top‑ranked quarterback, another top‑ranked offense.
But it does give you encouragement that those guys have been on the road and played some significant snaps, and also Tiller and (Fred) Harmon.
Q. Avery (Williamson) said some of the young guys in the secondary, they are still trying to figure out where to go and they are thinking in their heads ‑‑
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, that's what you get when you play young guys. There's a lot of thinking involved. There's a lot of things that they have to process in a short period of time. We're playing a team that was a tempo team. You don't have a lot of time to process things and they did do a good job of lining up for the most part, but again, they are still trying to learn on the run.
Q. The young guys talking to the coaches about learning the system … What are they relaying back to you coaches?
COACH PHILLIPS: Every time they go out, it's a new experience for them. They experience something new, I shouldn't say it's a new experience. They experience something new as far as the sets and different formations that they see. But the thing that you see is that they don't forget what they see in a new set, and they do a really good job of retaining those type of things.
Again, every time they go out, they are going to experience something new. But I think it's good. Nothing wrong with it. You're going to have it when you're playing such a young team.
Q. Question regarding the suspension of the game …
COACH PHILLIPS: Originally, I was one ‑‑ because we had so many young guys, originally wanted to continue playing, but after you think about it, those guys have been ‑‑ we had not eaten since two o'clock. I don't think the weather broke ‑‑ it couldn't have broke before we got off the ground, because the way the plane was shaking. So it had to be ‑‑ again, kind of tossed us around a little bit.
So you're talking, you said one o'clock (in the morning)? We then have to hold us until one o'clock ‑‑ we called in Chick‑Fil‑A ‑‑ we called in for some sandwiches, and so we would have gotten fed, possibly. But one, two o'clock, I think it would have been ridiculous to continue to play that game.
Q. When is the last time you talked to Mitch Barnhart and what was it about …
COACH PHILLIPS: We talk a couple times a week. It's just a small talk. It's nothing ‑‑ you know, he's been very encouraging and nothing what you want to get at.
One thing Mitch and I, we're friends, and that's more important to me than anything on the business side. We are friends. And I can tell you this: There's not a lot of people out there that can say they are friends. There's not a lot. One of the things I do cherish and appreciate is our friendship.
Q. Did you talk about your job status next year?
COACH PHILLIPS: I'm busy trying to get these guys improved and get them prepared to play Georgia.
Q. Question regarding having trouble getting players lined up right in the first half …
COACH PHILLIPS: That was early in the game but once we got a chance to get in the locker room and make a few adjustments, that's one of the good things.
Again, still didn't get the pressure we needed to get on the quarterback but we did have people lining up in the right positions.
Q. Question regarding playing Cody Quinn over J.D. Harmon and Fred Tiller …
COACH PHILLIPS: He challenges people. Not only is he one of the fastest guys on this football team, he's one of the strongest guys. He's a really tough guy.
So just his ability to challenge receivers and compete. He competes at a high level, so we have had to separate him from the rest of those freshmen. They are not that far behind, Tiller and Harmon, those guys do a good job, also.
Q. Question regarding why the defense isn’t getting as much pressure on the quarterback as they want …
COACH PHILLIPS: Not a lot of people get pressure with four guys. A bunch of them played two weeks ago, got pressure, a lot of people, including the team we are about to play with four guys, but not a lot of people get a lot of pressure with four guys.
What concerns you when you don't get pressure, with five or six guys, that's what concerns you more than anything. Because you look at it, we went three games with four sacks, didn't put any pressure on us. A lot of it had to do with Max (Smith) getting the ball out of his hands and that's what we have been playing. We have playing quarterbacks like that to get the ball out of their hands. We are supposed to go with it to get the ball out of their hands quickly.
Q. Question regarding Patrick Towles and if he could return this week or next …
COACH PHILLIPS: I have not seen those. All I'm getting is information from Jim Madaleno. I don't know either way. Just said he can get up on his toes. We'll take a look at it tomorrow and see if he's improved any from today.
Q. Question regarding Martavius Neloms, Mikie Benton and Ashely Lowery injury …
COACH PHILLIPS: Day‑to‑day. We are going to allow Neloms to run on Wednesday; his is a hamstring. And Lowery will see the doctor on Tuesday. He saw the doctor yesterday and he'll see the doctor again on Tuesday.
One thing we do is we coach who is available. I should know more about the injury situations and all those things, but I know when we'll get them back, we'll get them back. But again, we just try to coach who is available and if those guys aren't available, we'll continue going with the young kids.
Q. Benton’s was an ankle …
COACH PHILLIPS: His is a high ankle sprain. They think the Towles has kind of moved ahead of him, so he's probably a little bit further behind Towles.
Q. Question regarding Dyshawn Mobley doing a better job handling protection …
COACH PHILLIPS: Doing better. And this is a game that we wanted to play him, in what seemed like the fourth quarter, the third quarter. And he was one of the reasons why originally, we would like to play (the remainder of the game), we just scored a touchdown, we just forced a punt and there was going to be more opportunities for him to get in there and run the football. And every snap ‑‑ when you're a young team, every snap you can get is helpful and he was one of the guys that I thought about first. We want him to play.
Q. How important is a fast start with a young team?
COACH PHILLIPS: It's very important. We saw it last week, we go three‑and‑out, give up a score in the first play. So it's very important. It was helpful and us doing well in the first half against South Carolina, I think it will be helpful this week if we can get a fast start.
Q. How much more difficult is the 3-4 defense to play …
COACH PHILLIPS: The 3‑4 personnel, meaning you have three down linemen and four linebackers. We have probably played more four‑down (lineman) looks with our 3‑4 personnel. And same we have played that are 4‑3 personnel, you see more three‑down looks from them than you do four‑down looks.
They just kick the front one way or the other, and just when you see the guards are uncovered and when the guard is uncovered, that's a three‑down look. When you see one of the guards covered, that's a four‑down look.
So you see teams going back and forth with different personnel in the game. We just played a team that was a four‑down personnel with four defensive linemen, but they showed us probably as much three‑down looks as we saw four‑down looks.
Q. Is it complex?
COACH PHILLIPS: What the 3‑4 gives you an opportunity to do is play ‑‑ to be able to match up against the spread (offenses). Because you have hybrid kind of guys in there with Winston (Guy) and Bud being those type of hybrid guys that can still go out and play in space.
Whereas, if you guys can remember the reason Danny Trevathan didn't play much as a junior ‑‑ actually as a freshman and a sophomore is because we had to sub out to be able to play against the spread (offenses0.
So when nickel came in the game, and we were in our 4‑3 sets, Danny didn't get a chance to play much, because teams played so much spread (offense), so Danny didn't get to play much. You want to match up to their personnel and didn't give Danny a chance to play much because he was the will linebacker and it would have made our will linebacker have to cover a down on slot receivers.
But now, the way we play is Bud goes into the boundary, a guy like our hybrid, which is Miles Simpson or most of you guys know, Winston Guy's position, Winston can cover on a slot receiver.
Q. Talking so much about the leadership ‑‑ where do you see the older guys?
COACH PHILLIPS: They have been very encouraging to the young guys that had to step up and play huge roles. I was really pleased with the way ‑‑ I almost thought about taking Neloms and Mikie Benton on the trip. But we just thought it would be more beneficial for them to stay home back here and get more treatment.
But I thought about taking those guys because what you saw during the week are those guys trying to help the young guys out on the sidelines. CoShik has been the same way. Didn't have to do it as much on the offense. Jalen has really been the one guy, and Matt Smith and he have communicated a lot, so Matt's been good with him. Larry (Warford) leads by example and he's played really well for us. He's been the one guy that's been very consistent for us offensively.