LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the final time before concluding its 2012 home schedule on Saturday against Samford at 7:30 p.m. ET inside Commonwealth Stadium, the University of Kentucky football team took to the practice fields to get ready for the Bulldogs. The Wildcats practiced outside on the Tim Couch Practice Fields Thursday morning after practicing indoors at the Nutter Field House Tuesday and Wednesday.
After practice, head coach Joker Phillips continued to rave about his team’s energy and attitude in practice over the last couple of weeks, saying the team has responded well to the circumstances.
“Practices have been upbeat, and given the circumstances, practices have been a lot better than I would have thought,” Phillips said. “Again, the reason why I am here is because we have good kids and if I didn’t think we had good kids there is no way I would do this because it would be hard for them to get going and for us (coaches) to tell them to get going and have them respond the right way. But the kids are responding.”
Saturday will serve as the annual Senior Night game for Kentucky as it will honor a total of 19 seniors, including a redshirt junior forgoing his senior season and a undergraduate assistant coach that would have been a member of the senior class. A full list of players to be honored is listed below.
As for Phillips, who has been involved in many Senior Nights at Kentucky as a player and coach over the last couple of decades, he said he hasn’t thought much about Saturday and the emotions that will come with it being his last time in Commonwealth Stadium as head coach of the Wildcats.
“No, I really haven’t had a chance to do all of that,” Phillips said on what his emotions will be like Saturday. “I have been through it here before, not to this extent being the head coach, but I have been through it. I try to remember how it was then and it was, ‘Hey, time to move on.’ That is the type of attitude I will take with this one … Very seldom do you get a chance to be at a place coaching for nine years or 10 years. I will take that because very seldom you get that. I had an opportunity to be here 10 years (in his current term), five of them we went to bowl games, coached five years as a coordinator and three years as a head coach. I feel fortunate to be able to do that.”
Phillips said he remembers his Senior Night as a player, recalling that it was one of the best games of his collegiate career. More importantly to Phillips though, he wants to see consecutive Senior Night wins for the Wildcats.
“You always knew you were going to play a tough Florida team,” Phillips said about his Senior Day as a player at Kentucky. “I probably had one of the better games I ever had in college that is one of my memories. But again, the biggest memory was we didn’t win the game. That is why I think it’s important for these guys to walk off this field as a winner. There haven’t been a lot of guys since we changed the schedule to win their last game here at Commonwealth. Last year’s seniors were one of the few senior classes that has won their last game here at Commonwealth. I would love to see us have two senior classes back-to-back win their last game here.”
Phillips said most of the seniors are already seeing significant playing time and there will not be expanded roles for those that normally do not. However, Phillips said they will try to expand senior Morgan Newton’s involvement either as a H-back or a quarterback.
“I think we will try to expand Morgan’s role a little bit more as an H-back and we were trying to do some things like that before but some of the injuries happened at quarterback,” Phillips said. “We have been working on some of them and we will figure out how much he plays. We do have some packages with him at quarterback that we can continue to work.”
On the injury front, Phillips said true freshman linebacker Pancho Thomas will play Saturday. According to Phillips, Thomas has a “wrap on his hand” and will be in a cast for the game but will play.
Kentucky will have a walk-through practice Friday morning to conclude all on-field preparation for Samford.
Wildcats to Honor 2012 Seniors Saturday Before Kickoff
The University of Kentucky will honor its 2012 senior football players on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium when the Wildcats host Samford at 7:30 p.m. ET. Fans are encouraged to be in the stadium 30 minutes prior to kickoff to help salute the seniors. A total of 19 seniors will be honored during a pre-game ceremony, including redshirt junior offensive lineman Steven Duff, who is graduating on time and forgoing his senior season, and undergraduate student assistant coach Sam Simpson.
The seniors being honor are:
#31 Mikie Benton, DB, Russellville, Ky.
#27 Aaron Boyd, WR, Lexington, Ky.
#73 Steven Duff, OG, Louisville, Ky.
#84 Gabe Correll, TE, Cincinnati, Ohio
#19 E.J. Fields, WR, Frankfort, Ky.
#16 La’Rod King, WR, Radcliff, Ky.
#85 Gene McCaskill, WR, Chester, S.C.
#93 Craig McIntosh, K, Lexington, Ky.
#1 Martavius Neloms, DB, Memphis, Tenn.
#12 Morgan Newton, QB, Carmel, Ind.
#36 Kristofer O’Bryant, DB, Fairfax, Va.
#35 Carter Rice, DB, Duncan, S.C.
Sam Simpson, student assistant coach, Lexington, Ky.
#69 Matt Smith, OL, Louisville, Ky.
#96 Collins Ukwu, DE, La Vergne, Tenn.
#67 Larry Warford, OL, Richmond, Ky.
#26 CoShik Williams, TB, Hiram, Ga.
#74 Trevino Woods, OL, Athens, Ga.
#94 Taylor Wyndham, DE, Swansea, S.C.