LEXINGTON, Ky. – Joker Phillips, who is entering his second season as the head coach of the University of Kentucky football team, talked at the annual Greater Louisville Area Alumni Luncheon on Wednesday, to give alumni and fans the latest on the team’s preparation for its season opener on Thursday, Sept. 1, against WKU at LP Field in Nashville.
Before talking to the full ballroom at the Galt House West in downtown Louisville, Phillips spoke to a group of media members about the completion of fall camp. Overall, Phillips said the staff and players are working to ensure that everything and everyone are ready and prepared.
“We just need to make sure that we have all of our i’s dotted and t’s crossed,” Phillips said when asked what his biggest concerns were heading into the season opener next week against Western Kentucky University. “We are now in preparation for Western Kentucky. We have been trying to get Kentucky better for the last 20 practices, now we get started on Western Kentucky.”
Phillips, along with Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, has had praise for the continued development of junior starting quarterback Morgan Newton. The native of Carmel, Ind., enters his first season as the opening-day starter of the Wildcats, although he has played in 13 career games making nine starts. Phillips says Newton is a different player heading into 2011 because of his increased level of confidence.
“It is amazing how far he (Morgan Newton) has come since the last time that we have played,” Phillips said. “A lot of that has to do with his confidence. His confidence comes from getting reps and then when you get confidence and reps it shows in how he is leading this football team now. I am excited about watching him. He is throwing the ball where he is supposed to. His eyes are where they are supposed to be and he is completing passes. That is exciting to watch from your quarterback.”
Newton can only be as good as his offensive line and it appears the leader of the offensive line, senior Stuart Hines, could be back and ready to play for UK’s season opener against WKU next week. Hines has been battling a sprained knee but did some conditioning with the team Tuesday.
“We think that he will make it to the game,” Phillips said. “We have two days off. We have today off because school started and then tomorrow we will treat like a Sunday practice after a game, which will be a light lift and a little bit of a run. There is not much going on for the next two days, but in three days he will get some work and we are hoping he will be ready to go.”
Phillips said the team will not rush back Hines and that he believes the All-Southeastern Conference performer does not feel added pressure to return for the season opener because of being a native of Bowling Green.
“Stuart is just anxious to play,” Phillips said. “Stuart is one of those guys that is just excited to play the game. He practices the same way he plays, also. I think he is just anxious to get back on the practice field and play any game, not just Western Kentucky. This is his senior year and last chance to go out and play. He is one of our leaders on offense and it shows by the way he prepares himself.”
As always, Phillips continued to stress how important it is for Kentucky to have a strong foundation in the city of Louisville. The UK coach praised the group of UK fans for giving his team and all of UK Athletics its support in recent years.
“It is very important,” Phillips said. “We have a huge fan base here that does a great job supporting us and we want to do as many things as we can here to give back to them.
“Our motto this year is ‘Rise’ and this program is definitely a program that is on the rise. I want our fans to understand that this program has definitely come a long way. We are not happy with where we are at but we are working to continuing the rise this program.”
The Wildcats took Wednesday off for the first day of classes but will return to the practice field Thursday to resume preparation for WKU.
Fans Encouraged to Donate Blood in “Battle of the Bluegrass”: The Battle of the Bluegrass isn’t just played on the football field. It’s a blood battle between the Cats and the Cards, too.
Kentucky Blood Center’s annual Battle of the Bluegrass runs Aug. 22 through Sept. 2. Donors can give blood and vote for their favorite team – the UK Wildcats or the U of L Cardinals.
All donors receive a T-shirt and a chance to win prizes, including a 2011 Toyota Tacoma.
To find a convenient location or schedule a donation, visit kybloodcenter.org or call 800-775-2522.