LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky football head coach Joker Phillips and the Kentucky football team practiced indoors at the Nutter Field House on Wednesday to continue its preparation for the Samford Bulldogs. Kickoff on Saturday is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Commonwealth Stadium and will be televised on CSS.
After practice, Phillips congratulated senior center Matt Smith for being named a finalist for the 2012 Wuerffel Trophy, which honors the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with outstanding academic and athletic achievement.
On the field Phillips continued to compliment the attitude of the team and the effort the players have brought to practice. Phillips said the players are still listening and making themselves better.
“We got good kids, that is the thing,” Phillips said about practice. “The attitude has been good and we still have kids coming to practice and coming to work. That is the only reason I am doing it (coaching final two games) because of the kids. If I thought we had kids that wouldn’t respond, than I would have walked away two weeks ago. But I think the kids here are good kids and still working hard and listening and trying to get themselves better. We have had good, upbeat practices.”
Along those same lines, Phillips talked about how much the Wildcat seniors mean to him.
“They mean the world to me,” Phillips said about the senior class. “Just how they have gone about their business through this time, that is big for me. All of them have a story and it helps when you know their story and I know their story. I have sat in many of their homes. Again, they mean the world to you because of how they have gone about their business. Three of them have already graduated and the rest of them will get their degree in December or May and that means more to me than anything.”
Over the last two weeks, Phillips and offensive line head coach Mike Summers have raved about the play of senior offensive guard Larry Warford, who has been named game captain for each of the last three games. Phillips said after practice Wednesday that Warford should be one of a bunch of UK offensive linemen getting courted by National Football League teams over the next few years, crediting Summers’ work and keeping players in the program longer.
“That is where the game is won,” Phillips said about the offensive line. “The difference that has hurt a bit here is that most of the high-level linemen have had to play as true freshman. Garry Williams (now with the Carolina Panthers) had to play as a true freshman and it probably hurt his opportunity to get drafted. Now we are starting to get to a point where we have redshirted all but one of the offensive linemen. Think if Larry was a junior? He was a guy that had to come in here and play also. I think there are some offensive linemen here that will be drafted in time. Coach (Mike) Summers has done an unbelievable job at coaching those guys. I think all those guys got a chance. I don’t think Larry will be the last guy in the next couple of years to get drafted.”
On the injury front, Phillips announced that sophomore safety Ashely Lowery will miss the rest of the season with a broken finger. Phillips said Lowery will have a pin put in the finger Friday and could possible play, but they do not want to “compromise his recovery.”
Kentucky will return to practice Thursday morning.