LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky football head coach Joker Phillips and the Kentucky football team continued its preparation for top-15 ranked Georgia on Wednesday with a two-hour practice at the Tim Couch Practice Fields.
After practice, Phillips talked about several items, including true freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow, the depth and talent of Georgia’s defense and an updated injury report. Phillips said Whitlow received all first-team reps in practice and is continuing to get some second-team reps as well to make sure he is fully prepared. Last week, Whitlow came out of the game for two series with Morgan Newton. Phillips said he wanted Whitlow to see everything happen from a different angle. Phillips and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders have continued that message this week, saying Newton will play a role for UK against the Bulldogs.
“Morgan needs to be a part of it also, because that also gives a young freshman a chance to step back and see everything,” Phillips said. “It was good Saturday for Whitlow to be able to step back and see everything and then get a chance to go back in. That definitely helps and Morgan gives us a chance to do that.”
Whitlow saw his first true action as a Wildcats against a talented defense in South Carolina, moving the Wildcats down the field for 17 first-half points, including his first career rushing touchdown. Phillips said most of that success was due to Whitlow using his feet to erase mistakes, but continuing that is difficult due to defenses being able to adjust.
“The rushers got up the field and he pulled things down and made plays with his feet,” Phillips said about Whitlow’s early success. “That is the thing he needs to do better is when things aren’t going well and you don’t see things open, tuck the ball and go with it. Now, what you are seeing is guys doing a better job inside on him. Before he was an unknown guy so the middle of the field would open up and he would take it. Now, you are seeing a lot of twists by the inside guys and still getting speed rushers on the outside, but you are seeing a lot of twists and those type of things inside and people just bull-rushing you inside that closes up those running lanes inside. That is one of the things we are seeing that’s different.”
One way Phillips and Sanders can make it easier on Whitlow is being able to establish a running game early and often.
“We have to run the football and take some pressure off the young quarterback,” Phillips said. “The way to do that is by running the football. We have to try to establish the run and do it early to take the pressure off our guy.”
Getting a solid running attack started against Georgia is no easy task. The Bulldogs have limited three opponents to 20 points or less this season with Phillips praising the team for their depth from top to bottom.
“Georgia has played great defense,” Phillips said. “This team probably has the best personnel that we have seen from top to bottom. We have played South Carolina and you guys say their defensive front is as good as anybody’s in America. We have played Florida and you guys say their linebackers have great speed. But this team from top to bottom, whether you are talking secondary, defensive line, linebackers, is probably the best personnel that we will play.”
On the injury front, Phillips officially ruled out true freshman quarterback Patrick Towles from playing Saturday. Senior defensive backs Mikie Benton and Martavius Neloms also will not play Saturday. Phillips said. Sophomore Ashely Lowery spent limited time practice Wednesday, however, Phillips expects him to play Saturday.
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