LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips and the Wildcat football team hit the practice field Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s matchup with No. 10-ranked South Carolina, the leader of the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.
“It was good,” Phillips said after practice Tuesday. “I liked the energy and really liked how the guys flew around and how they bounced back.”
Following a heartbreaking loss to then-No. 8 ranked Auburn last Saturday, Phillips said that the coaching staff was expecting to have to push the players in order to get them on track and ready to go for the South Carolina game, but his team proved him wrong, coming out focused and ready to practice.
“It is amazing,” the first-year head coach said. “You think that you are getting ready to go into a fight and that the guys are going to fight against you, but there isn’t much you have to do to get them ready. You feel like the team is starting to mature and grow up. It was not that much of a fight for the coaches to get them going today.”
The head coach said that motivation is always a concern when he heads out to the practice fields, saying that it is “like pulling teeth” to get some teams going hard but this UK team has been different.
“We are in today’s world,” Phillips said. “I have been with teams where it is like pulling teeth to get them jacked up. This team has been great. Again, I attribute a lot of it to how Rock (strength coach Rock Oliver) handles them on Sunday. They lift together on Sundays and get motivated together.”
Phillips told reporters after practice that senior tailback Derrick Locke did not practice Tuesday while recovering from shoulder stingers and a bruised elbow. Locke’s status remains day-to-day.