LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky football head coach Joker Phillips and the Kentucky football team practiced outdoors Thursday at the Tim Couch Practice Fields for the first time this week. Kentucky is preparing for its final Southeastern Conference home game of the season this Saturday against Vanderbilt at Noon ET.
As has been the custom in recent years, Phillips said after practice that the Wildcats have begun slight reductions in practice time to help keep the players healthy and fresh.
“This time of year you do cut back,” Phillips said about practice. “We cut back about five or 10 minutes of our practices when you get this late in the year. We still do 11-on-11 but we cut back on some of our individual periods.”
Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said earlier in the week that the determination of playing time between true freshmen quarterback Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles would not be made until later in the week. Phillips echoed those words Thursday, saying the staff will have those conversations later this afternoon.
“Thursday is usually when we sit down, try to come up with a plan to play the backups and we’ll go in here and talk about it today and figure out exactly when we want to play him,” Phillips said. “We decided third series last week and that’s what we stuck with.”
Phillips also said that senior quarterback Morgan Newton could be used this week not only in an emergency situation, but to help the young quarterbacks slow down and see the game.
“He’s still an emergency guy and a guy that will get in on the goal line,” Phillips said. “We’ll put him in there also doing some of the Wildcat stuff and our quarterback run game. But again if we’re struggling with those two guys, he’s a guy who can go in and give those two guys a breather and let them see it from the sideline so things will start slowing down for them. He’s definitely an option, though.”
On the injury front, Phillips said that starting defensive tackle Donte Rumph is doubtful but “everyone else should be good to go.” Phillips said that sophomore Alvin Davis could see more playing time this week if Rumph doesn’t play.
Phillips agreed with a reporter when asked if only missing one starter would be “considered healthy.” The head coach said looking back if you remove Maxwell Smith’s start against South Carolina this year and Morgan Newton’s start last year against Mississippi State, UK has started a true freshman at quarterback 11 out of their last 12 SEC games.
“This would be considered healthy (compared to the major injury issues the team has been through),” Phillips said. “In 11 of the last 12 SEC games we have played, if you take out nine plays Morgan played last year (at the beginning of) the Mississippi State game and two plays Maxwell Smith played this year in the South Carolina, game then we have started a true freshman quarterback. The guys are doing a great job but your margin of error is really small when you are starting true freshman quarterbacks.”
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