Lexington, Ky. (WKYT) - UK coach Joker Phillips talked for more than 30 minutes Friday morning at UK's Media Day at Commonwealth Stadium.
PHILLIPS: How much fun is this? We get to play some more football. First thing I'd like to say is congratulations to Dermontti Dawson. Very seldom do you get to come in contact, play, lineup beside ‑‑ I say beside, I never lined up with the offensive line ‑‑ but I lined up beside him and stretched the line sometimes and (become) a Hall of Famer. So proud of him.
I'm sad that I won't be able to make it up there tomorrow for the induction ceremonies. Did get a chance to spend some time with him a couple of weeks ago. He's excited. His family is excited and everybody, all the ex‑players that I've talked to are excited for him. We'll DVR the ceremonies. I can't wait to hear his induction speech.
Dermontti is a classic guy and represents the blue and white, the Big Blue Nation, the right way. That's exactly what we stand for.
Shawn Blaylock will have season‑ending knee surgery the 7th. He will report to camp which he reported today. We will then be able to replace him because of surgery. It is a season-ending surgery. It occurred in high school after his commitment to us. He missed a couple games. Came back, made a couple games after that, but after getting here on campus, he requires surgery that will end his season.
He will have surgery on the 7th. We'll keep him here for a couple of days, send him home until training camp ends, and he'll be back here when school starts. But it is a season ending surgery.
I've always said the hardest thing about being a freshman is to get them to be sophomores. We have an academic casualty in Marcus Caffey. Marcus Caffey is ineligible for the 2012 season. He will practice and still be a part of our program, but will be ineligible to play in the 2012 season.
Our solution to this matter will be Martavius Neloms. Martavius Neloms, two years ago, three of our best players in the secondary were lined up at corner. You want to try to get your best players on the field. Martavious Neloms was the best option to move to safety. He was the most physical guy. So we moved him to safety this year.
It's now turned to where our better players are at safety. When you start thinking about moving a guy to lineup your corner, Martavius, because he's played there a couple of years, he's probably the most athletic safety that we have. We'll move him to the (cornerback) position.
We also will with Blaylock also being out, we'll move J.D. Harmon. We got raving reviews on the athleticism, the toughness, the mental toughness that J.D. showed this summer by a lot of our veteran players. So we'll move J.D. Harmon to the corner position. He'll still be a kick/punt return guy. He's a long, lean athlete that we've got to continue to try to get into this program, and he'll be a guy that will move to that position.
I don't want to answer any questions about the Marcus Caffey deal. That's it. We move on. That's the reality now, and we'll focus on getting prepared for this season, and getting prepared to play the University of Louisville.
We're excited to be back here on the field and have an opportunity to compete with this 2012 team. While we're excited, I get that a lot. That's usually the first question, why is there so much excitement? Well, I'm excited because of the leadership that we have on this football team. We have sat down and talked about who we thought were some of our leaders, and since January, that list has grown. It's doubled.
There are a lot of leaders on this football team, and they've shown that throughout our off‑season, throughout spring football, and throughout the summer workouts. I'm excited about the dedication this football team has displayed, and I'm excited about the hunger this football team has shown.
There wasn't a weekend ‑‑ I can't remember a weekend ‑‑ we've actually had to change our system and how we get into our offices because there are so many of our players wanting to get to watch film on Saturdays and Sundays. There were numerous times that Max Smith has six or seven guys coaching saying you need to get in. Coach, we've got some young guys here. We're all here together.
So we've had to change our system of how we enter our building. We're in the process of getting a system where our players can get in at any time. We've never had that. We've never had that where guys just can't wait to get in the building on the weekends, on their off days. I'm excited about that. That's what makes us excited.
Excited about the commitment level this football team has shown. Excited about how much they care about each other. Our goal at the end of this camp is to make sure we come out of this thing one team, as a team, as a better football team. So that's what makes us excited.
We have some very competitive positions that bring excitement to us. At the quarterback position, it's very competitive. The running back position is very competitive. Excited about some of those young safeties that bring competitiveness to our safety position, which allows us to move Martavius Neloms. The tight end position is a very competitive position. There are four other guys that have lined up at tight end and started games in their careers.
Excited about the wide receiver competition. Two guys that we're excited about that are freshmen, which allows us to move J.D. Harmon. Because three guys that our strength and conditioning staff was excited about, therefore we're able to move one of those guys, and that guy is J.D. Harmon.
I'll tell you how excited Max Smith is. He came to us and said, coach, I want to room with DeMarcus Sweat. I've never seen a quarterback say I want to room with this guy. This guy's special, coach. And the same with A.J. Legree. We're excited about the Sam linebacker position, their competition. That competition with doing some unbelievable work in the weight room. With Kory Brown who I'll tell you a quick story about Kory Brown, and the type of person and type of up bringing that he has, which is the type of kids that we're trying to bring that this program.
Kory Brown is a junior college kid. Did not qualify out of high school. Kory Brown comes here on his official visit, and I did not remember this. My wife remembered this. Kory Brown on Saturday has a chance to go out, and he's been in a little small town in Mississippi, and has a chance to come to the city of Lexington and see how he fits in the city. He decides on Saturday night, coach, I've got a final. I got a final. I've got to go back up and study, I'm not going out with these guys. Special.
Then once he goes back and finishes school, I have an opportunity to go down to Charleston to see some other kids, Kory Brown's mom ‑‑ Kory Brown's mom drives from Charleston, South Carolina to a little small town in Mississippi. Doesn't get a hotel room. Picks him up, drives him back. I'm in Charleston, I've got to catch a flight at 11:00 o'clock. I've got to catch the flight at 11:00 a.m. they get in at 7:00 o'clock. They put his stuff in the house, drive from Moncks Corner, to Charleston, South Carolina to see me. Without any sleep?
That's the type of kids we're getting in this program. Guys with good upbringing. Guys we want representing the University of Kentucky. Guys that all they do is come here and have a 3.5 GPA. Busts his tail in the classroom, on the football field, in the weight room, doing the right things.
So I'm excited about the Sam linebacker position with him, and (Josh) Forrest and Miles Simpson who we have deemed as one of the leaders on this football team now.
Okay, they don't always grow up as fast. In year three, Miles Simpson is now one of the leaders of this football team. We saw it. That's why we recruited the guy.
At the Will linebacker, I'm excited with Malcolm McDuffen in, Khalid Henderson who has a lot of fire in his belly. A lot of fire. He was one of those guys that Avery Williamson would call and say, hey, coach, I've got Khalid with me. He wants to learn. He wants to learn more and take it to the next level. That's why we're excited about this football team. Excited about the depth we have at the offensive line position. The depth that we're gaining in the offensive line position, because there are five guys that we've never signed a full class of guys that's look like the guys that we have.
There are a couple of strength levels, gives them a chance to compete, give us some depth at that position.
I'm really excited about the defensive line depth. The defensive line should be the strength of our defense. Should be the strength of our football team. They don't always grow up as fast as we want them to grow up. Mister Cobble is in the same situation his freshman year. He's now one of the guys that we have deemed as one of the leaders on this football team. In year four, okay? He's one of the guys that we have deemed as being one of the leaders that does everything the right way. The right way we want him to do it, okay? His GPA is now 2.6. After falling really far behind as a freshman, and he's becoming one of those guys that brings guys with him. That's what we're excited about.
With that, we'll open it up with questions. Again, I don't want to talk about the other situation. We're done with that. We're moving on. I told you the solution, and we'll keep forging ahead to prepare for this upcoming season.
Q. (No microphone)?
COACH PHILLIPS: It does, which is the reason why we have picked up the tempo in practice. In spring we're limited by the amount of time. Where in fall camp you're not limited in time, but you are limited in (spring).
You only have three hours to work, and then you have to give them the long break in between. But we're not going to take three hours to work. We'll go about two hours and 35 minutes. But we also have to get as much reps as we possibly can to work our threes.
We've never had a situation where we've had threes and fours to work. We've had threes and fours. It hasn't been threes and fours that you wanted to get work, okay? We always wanted to get our ones and twos reps, and there might have been a three here or there. But there are now threes and fours that we've got to get reps, so we've got to practice a lot faster to try to give those guys a chance to compete and give those guys a chance to get reps so when scrimmages come, they understand what's going on and compete at a high level.
Q. Re: Landon Foster possibly winning the punting job.
COACH PHILLIPS: He can. That's what he's been signed to do. Again, we've been really consistent in our evaluation process, the evaluation process with a kicker or quarterback because we want to see him in person. We want to see him in person, whether it's kicking or throwing the football. I think you can be mislead by film with the quarterback position and the kicking position.
We will not sign a quarterback (or punter) unless we see him throw or kick in person. He came here twice. We want to put him under pressure. He came here twice. We said come back. We want to see how you do at the next kicking camp. So he lined up. I stood right beside him. I wanted to see how he handled the pressure. Coach Nord screamed and yelled at him. Wanted to see how he handled the pressure. He came back the second week, competed the same way against some other great kickers.
We liked his poise, his confidence, his athletic ability. You don't have to be a great athlete to be a kicker. You have to be a great athlete to be a punter, and that's what this kid is. He was a guy that played other positions; therefore, he's a pretty good athlete.
So you've got to be a good athlete to be a punter, and we feel like we've signed the next great one.
Q. You talk about the quality of kid you're bringing in, how do you anticipate that carrying over to the playing field in terms of success?
COACH PHILLIPS: It matters, trust me, it matters the type of kids you have. Can you trust them? Can we trust you? How much do they care about this football team? Are they committed? Are they committed to doing the things right all the time? And doing things right all the time, meaning, if I'm a corner and I'm supposed to lineup 12 yards inside the receiver. I've got to lineup 12 yards, not 7 yards, 12 yards, okay? And we're bringing kids into this program that are willing to do things right all the time.
Q. Can you talk about your depth at safety that enabled you to make that move? Also, what there is about Khalid Henderson that you really, really like?
COACH PHILLIPS: At safety, Josh Harris is a guy that has a lot of athleticism. He's long. Very, very, very intelligent guy. One of the Blaylocks, (Zack) but a smaller, leaner guy that had 11 interceptions and six of those back for touchdowns. Him being at that position gives us some depth at the position.
There are two walk‑on junior college guys that just showed up, just showed up. Looking at them in the hall way and sitting down with them, talking to them, looking in their eyes and seeing what type of passion they have for this game that we're excited about. They give us a chance to move a person from that position to another position, and it also adds depth to the position of the safety.
Khalid Henderson, very focused. He's a very focused, very determined, willing to learn. He came for spring practice, and all he did was follow Rick Minter. He's a Rick Minter type of guy. He's a ball coach is what he is on the field, and you better have that at the linebacker position.
Q. Re: banning twitter
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, I have met with the freshmen. I have not met with the veterans yet, but we will, okay. We will. So you guys can tell them if you want to when you interview them. I'll tell them tonight. But why? We've got better things to do. We've got a lot of work to do. We don't have time.
I told our freshmen, say goodbye tonight to your Twitter fans, okay? Say good night. I'll see you guys August 15th. Hope you show up for fan day, but we'll tune back in on August 15th. We'll say the same thing to our varsity guys. We don't have time for it, first of all. If you see our schedule, we're up at 7:00, we're in bed at 11 and there is no time to relax, no time to Twitter. When do they do it? From the walk from the Nutter Center to the Commons Dining Hall. That's the only time they have, and I want that time spent visiting with their teammates. I want that time spent visiting with their teammates.
We'll give big brothers to the young guys. I want that time spent getting these young guys understanding how we do things.
Q. When did you tell them of the twitter ban and how long will it last?
COACH PHILLIPS: Yesterday for the freshmen, today for the varsity to August 15th.
Q. Are you banning video games?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, I won't do video games. That's at night time when they're getting off their feet. One of the goals that you must do in training camp is you must take care of your body. It's a long, grueling season, it's a long grueling camp, and we must take care of our bodies.
The time that we spend Twittering, that's time they could be in the cold, ice tub, that's time they could be getting treatment from our training staff. We don't have time to Twitter, okay. We don't have time for that.
Q. How long will it last?
COACH PHILLIPS: Till the 15th. So Patrick Graffree you guys might want to say goodbye to him today, okay?
Q. Could you talk about your wide receiver position and play makers in general for this coming season?
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, La'Rod King's been a player in this program for a long time. He showed flashes from the time he walked on campus. He was a guy that made plays as a true freshman. On the road at Georgia, at Auburn, he's done it for a long time around here.
Somebody mentioned about a go‑to receiver. I don't understand what a go‑to receiver is. I've been in this business for a long time. That is a cliche that you, as media, sometimes I hear coaches saying there is no such thing as a go‑to receiver. You better have three guys out there that can make plays for you.
But we have to have complementary receivers. We have to have a guy. Because on third down if you've got a go‑to receiver, I'm going to roll coverage to him. I'm going to put somebody underneath him. I'm going to put somebody over top. Now somebody else has to make a play for you, and your quarterback's over there patting the ball, waiting for him to get open. He's not going to get open. We've got to have a number of receivers that can make plays for us.
The reason why we weren't successful in advancing the ball down the field in the passing game, we didn't have any big plays. You hear that very seldom, especially if you're not a very efficient team. You're not going to be able to drive the ball 12, 14 plays a game. It's hard to do that every series.
We have to have some 30, 40, 50 yard plays. Therefore we have to have some receivers step up and make plays for us. DeMarco Robinson, the reason I'm excited about him, he did it not just once, I'm talking twice, three times a scrimmage, you have to have a guy that can make plays consistently. He shows it throughout the spring practice.
Daryl Collins is starting to come. He's starting to be one of those guy that's we can depend on. That can make plays for us. He knows how to lineup. He knows how to run routes. He's played the position for a long time. Excited about some of these young guys that just walked on campus.
I think we'll have a chance to have six, seven receivers that can go out there and make plays for us, and not just count on La'Rod King to be the go‑to receiver, because I think that hurts you when you've just got one guy that you feel like the quarterbacks can go to.
Q. What is the latest information you have from your medical guys about Morgan Newton and Josh Clemens? Are those guys ready to compete for starting jobs from day one or are they still both going to have to be taking it easy here in camp?
COACH PHILLIPS: Morgan Newton is ready to go. He's ready to compete. We've backed him off the last week of throwing. This last week was our week off. We backed Morgan off from throwing a lot to try to make sure he's able to make it through training camp. Josh Clemens will go every other day. He and Gene McCaskill will go every other day.
We know what Josh can do. He'll have a chance to compete. We've just got to get him to the game. Josh has done it, and done it at a high level. We've just got to get him to the game, get him healthy and into the game. Helping him get to the game is practicing every other day, which allows him to get some good scrimmage work, which would be game like preparation and we'll see how he comes out of the scrimmages.
Q. You referred to this throughout the summer a couple three times that this team reminds you of the '06 team. Could you talk more about that?
COACH PHILLIPS: Just the make‑up of the roster. We have in our top 44 players, there are 26 sophomores and red shirt freshmen. That's not counting this talented group that showed up. In '06, there were 24, not counting the Braxton Kellys and those guys that stepped into starting roles, which we feel like a couple of these linebackers could possibly do and add even more depth to our program.
It also reminds me of some of the senior and junior leaders, Collins Ukwu, Larry Warford, Taylor Wyndham, Matt Smith, Morgan Newton, Mikie Benton, Tay Neloms, PC Cobble, Donte Rumph is becoming one. I know you didn't think you'd ever hear that. He's becoming one of those guys, okay, that understands how to do things right all the time.
He had an unbelievable spring semester in the classroom, unbelievable summer in the classroom. He's becoming one of those guys that we can count on being one of the leaders for. We'll start giving him more and more leadership roles because of that. It reminds me of the leadership at the top, and the talent at the bottom. That reminds me of the '06 team. We still got to go out and play, but the make‑up of the team reminds me of that. We've still got to go out and play.
Q. Re: Bud Dupree
COACH PHILLIPS: He can. He's physically as gifted a player that I've of been around. I've been around some very talented players at that position. He's as gifted as anyone. We deem him one of our leaders that does things the right way. That understands the commitment level and dedication level that you have to have to play this game at a high level.
Again, this time last year we're trying to convince him that the best thing for him would be moving to a linebacker, moving to defense. He wasn't really sure about it. This summer he came up to me and said, coach, this is the best thing that's happened to me. Which allowed us now, when you move J.D. Harmon, you want to move with J.D. Harmon, it's tough. Talk to Bud and see how this is affecting him.
This has allowed Bud Dupree to be one of the most premium guys in the league, from their athleticism, from a guy that has physical talents. He runs, he jumps, he's really, really smart and understands when you saw the last game of the season last year, we rushed him from the outside, we lined him up as inside linebacker, and he rushed the passer. We lined him up as an inside linebacker, and he dropped.
Because of his intelligence level allows us to move him around. When you can move a guy around with that kind of talent, you can't account for him. We see that a lot. This guy lines up on our left side, so we have to have our back over for our protection towards him. You can't account for a guy like Bud Dupree, because you don't know where he's going to lineup at.
The reason he's able to lineup a number of positions is because he's so smart. He understands all the different packages.
Q. Re: timing of quarterback decision?
COACH PHILLIPS: I want to make the decision at the quarterback position as fast as we possibly can. I wish the decision was already made. It's not. The reason it's not is because of the competition that we have here. Patrick Towles figures into this. He figures into it a lot. He's a guy that we've got to find out how much he can do he can make plays with his leg, with his arms. He's a smart guy who only threw 46 touchdowns last year and one interception. It's unbelievable. So we've got to find out how much he can do for us.
We will give him an opportunity he and Jalen Whitlow, an opportunity to be live at times because that gives them the best chance to compete, okay? Sometimes Donte Rumph runs by him and thinks he's tackled him and the play is over. You've seen the great quarterbacks that have the athleticism and ability to elude tacklers, get away from some of those tacklers.
So we'll get a chance to compete as a live player in our offense for at least one scrimmage. To see how he can play under fire. I think you need to do that also for freshman quarterback because they don't understand the speed which the game is played at this level. So we'll give him every opportunity to compete for the position also.
Q. Re: addition of Missouri and Texas A&M
COACH PHILLIPS: I've said this, the best league just got better by adding two quality institutions, two quality football programs, two great coaches. That's what's lost in this league (addition). Everybody talks about the talent level and we have all these number one draft picks coming out of this level. We've got great coaches in this league too.
We just added two more great coaches in this league. Everybody talks about the adjustment for those two programs and those two coaches. Those two coaches have had success everywhere they've been. Whether it's Toledo or Missouri or Houston or at Oklahoma, he had success, and he'll have success at Texas A&M too, because they understand how to coach football. That's what it is. It's still football. They know how to adjust to it.
Q. Players in the spring told us along the way it adds a little extra motivation and focus when you have Louisville week one. What have you noticed about the energy in the spring and what you expect to see in the fall?
COACH PHILLIPS: What I've noticed in the spring is again how hungry this football team is. We've been to five straight bowl games, we missed last year. We missed last year. That's what I've noticed, regardless of who we're playing, okay.
It adds a little bit more because it's only 80 mile as way. It adds a little bit more because it's our in‑state arrival. But that's what I've noticed is how hungry, how committed, how many guys are trying to lead in this program. That's what I've noticed. Not so much because of who it is, regardless of who it is. That's what I've seen.
Q. Talk about what being a veteran coach now means for you
COACH PHILLIPS: How have I changed? He said that was the last question. You know, you're a veteran in your business, and every year you go find a way to make yourself better person in the business. You're going to try to find different ways to try to motivate in this business. Try to motivate not only yourself, your staff, all the people around you. So I feel like I'm better at those things. I also understand all the commitments that the position has.
Somebody asked me about what is the biggest thing that I didn't realize that comes with this position that showed up. And it's the commitment level, okay? When I first got back here I was the only person that people knew on the staff ten years ago. So I had requested do this, do that. I always wanted to go out and sell our program, so I did.
As a coordinator, it became a little bit more. More than the amount I had to. As a head coach, it's off the charts how many times I have to go out and try to sell our program or the requests that you get. So I understand. I understand how to prioritize those. I understand I need to do this one now, this one now. I'll put this one on hold and I'll do this one next year if I get a chance.
I understand from March to May, I do nothing. I don't do anything. Before from March to May I tried to do everything I possibly could. I don't do anything during those months.
I understand that I do it in July and June. I understand that in August to December, you do absolutely nothing outside the program. Before I tried to fill everything I possibly could, and I think that's made me a better football coach and it's given me more time to focus on coaching football.
No offense to anybody out there that I turn down, but I just don't have time. I just don't have time to do it. The thing that I have to do is make sure that we're preparing and preparing to get this football program ready to play every game. Not just one game, okay, every game. So I think that's the reason I'm a better football coach by saying no to some of the requests that we have out there.