Injury situation, Derrick Locke, again, he’s a lot better, but it’s still day to day. If we had to go today, he would be out. Qua Huzzie would definitely be out this week with his ankle. Kevin Mitchell will be out one to two weeks with a hamstring. Martavius Neloms will go on Wednesday, Randall Burden will go Wednesday (or) Thursday with a sprained foot.
DeQuin Evans, he’ll go tomorrow, we’ll see how he does, and then Jordan Aumiller, he might go Tuesday, Tuesday (or) Wednesday. Larry’s shaking his head. He’ll probably go. He’s a Boyle County native, so he’ll probably go, as Larry’s saying. Right, Larry?
Guaranteed opportunity number 8 coming up, and every week, I probably could say the same statement. It’s another big challenge. We have another hot team coming in here in Georgia. Really good on both sides, all three phases. You look at them, and you say this could not be a team that’s lost four games.
Offensively, they are scoring 29 points (per game). They’re not turning the ball over. They are fourth in the league in passing. Their quarterback (Aaron Murray) really has a hot hand. He has thrown for 1600 yards, 12 touchdowns, and only three interceptions.
So once you think a team that’s lost three SEC games and a fourth game out of conference, you think they’ve had to turn the ball over.
The quarterback hasn’t been playing bad. He’s thrown for 1600 yards, 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Defensively you start thinking, well, it’s not on offense. Then you look at them on defense. Fourth in the league on defense. Only giving up 17 points a game, 103 yards rushing. 290 total, and they’re plus four in the turnover margin, too.
So then you start looking at your special teams. Your special teams, you’ve got the best punter in the league. They’ve got the best kick coverage. When they cover kicks, you know, they cover kicks, especially kickoff No. 5 is at a different speed. They have a lot of tackles inside the 20, and even some inside the 10-yard line, because the kicker does a good job, and their cover team does a great job.
Now they’ve gotten really hot and gotten a big-time player back in A.J. Green, and that would be my guess. Now they have a playmaker back in the game, which is the reason why they’re so hot. But they’re playing really good football right now. Only given up 14 points in the last two games. Got a shutout last week, scoring a lot of points.
Again, every week, you guys can take that statement as we’ve got a huge challenge ahead of us, especially when we play in this league.
Q. At the beginning of the year you talked about winning in the East. How much do you bring it up now?
COACH PHILLIPS:Closer it gets to the game, we want to talk about it. I want our guys to hear it. Usually you have coaches who say we don’t talk about it. Here in Kentucky, we need to hear it. I think we need to hear it.
So the closer we get to the games, especially Thursday, Friday is when we start talking about it. In order to win it, we’ve got to continue to win now. We say that three losses or winning this 5-3, we’ll have a chance to win the East. In order for us to win it, we’ve got to win each week.
Q. Can you explain the parity in the SEC East?
COACH PHILLIPS:No, it’s always like that. You usually have a lot of teams, because we battle each other, you’re always going to have — it’s always going to go down to the wire who wins it. It’s going to be two or three teams. It just happens to be now at this time in the season it’s probably all six of us have a chance.
Usually it will always be parity in the East. In the league, period. You know, just this year the West has got the upper hand on the East so far. But there’s still a lot of football to play.
Q. What was your reaction to the tweets yesterday, and how do you monitor that?
COACH PHILLIPS:Well, we have people in that department that monitor it. We have to definitely talk to our kids about it. I don’t really understand it. I really don’t. I don’t understand.
First of all, I don’t do it a lot anymore. I just don’t understand how you want somebody to know what’s on your mind. I would like to hear your tweet every day, Alan, and see what’s on your mind. I’ve been wondering that for 30 years watching you walk around here (laughing).
But I just don’t understand why you want somebody to know where you’re at or what you’re thinking. I don’t understand it. But that’s the day and age that we’re in.
And Randall’s tweet, we all know how passionate Randall is about Kentucky, how passionate he is about his teammates, and how passionate he is about his play. Randall understands that the majority, he needs to talk about the majority, not the minority.
We’ve got great fans. There’s no question about that. But he needs to talk about the people who are there screaming their hearts out and doing the things we need to to get wins each week.
It’s just the day and age that we’re in. They’re 18 to 20-year-olds. I’m 47, and I’m really just now figuring out how to tune out all the negative things that come at me.
I’d like to see Lonny Demaree, people screaming around his neck shooting negatives at him, how he will handle it. It would be tough, wouldn’t it? Because we all are defensive, right? That’s just human nature. We all are defensive.
But Randall’s human. He’s 18, 20. You’ve got to understand how passionate (he is). It shows in his play. The guy is a passionate player, he loves his teammates, he loves this place. If you look at all the guys on our team that are out here working in the community, who do you see first? Randall Cobb, you know, he loves everything about this place. So I won’t put as much in it as a lot of people are putting into it.
Q. What do you guys have to do to play better defensively in the first half?
COACH PHILLIPS:One, we’ve got to tackle better in the first half. Because we’re not going to call it anything different. If you look, we blitzed one in the second half. No, we didn’t.
In the Auburn game, we didn’t blitz more in the second half. We got to make plays and get ourselves off the field just one time, just one time. Because that one time our guys started carrying themselves different on the field once we got them stopped in the second half, same thing in the Auburn week. They get a little bit more confidence as we get them stopped, and the ability to make plays they just started flowing.
But we’ve just got to get ourselves off the field at least one time, one or two times in the first half to give our kids confidence. Because they’re playing hard, there’s no question about that.
We’ve just got to make — somebody’s got to make a play to get ourselves off the field in the first half, and I think when that happens, you’ll see us playing the way we play in the second half. Because Winston made a play late in the first half, — that was early in the first half when he made that play. We took it down to score.
But our confidence, still, our body language didn’t change that much when we were on the field defensively. So the thing that they did in the second half is once they made a play, their body language did change in my opinion.
It’s like piranhas. Once you smell blood, everybody wants some. Somebody made a play in the second half, a big play, and everybody wanted to make a play.
Q. Will you do anything differently pregame to try to get the team playing better in the first half?
COACH PHILLIPS:We’ll probably just try to convince them this is the second half (laughing). Yep. We don’t stretch much in the second half. Maybe we shouldn’t stretch. We don’t stretch in the second half. We usually eat orange slices. Maybe we’ll do that at the beginning of the game instead of at halftime. Although those Snickers (actually energy bars) that we eat also, they’re a little heavy. I don’t know if I want them to eat those before the game.
Q. What about Chris Matthews’ development?
COACH PHILLIPS:I’ve been telling you, I thought that Chris Matthews had been playing pretty consistent. This week in the game they gave some soft coverages to his side and we were able to hit him. And he is still is 6’4″, 6’4″ and-a-half, so he hasn’t changed much. You get a guy like that in space, and he’s one-on-one, and the guys come up and try to make a tackle on that type of guy, he creates problems.
But what’s happened to him is he’s learning what to do, therefore, he’s able to play faster. He’s getting his head around quicker and being able to adjust to some of the balls that last year he probably couldn’t have adjusted to them.
He had a hard time adjusting to them because he was still thinking, am I doing the right thing? And did my linebacker come and I’m supposed to say off of — actually, on the one that he scored, he did run the route a little bit deeper than we wanted, so that was a bust.
That was one of those plays where you say, no, no, no, yes, yes, yes. Well, he screwed up, but then he made a play. That’s the thing. You make a mistake, you better make a play, and he did.
Mike had enough patience to wait on him, hit him, and he made a play. We keep asking Chris, how good do you want to be? How good do you want to be? Because he can be as good as he wants to be, and now he’s starting to work like he wants to be a great player.
Q. Is his work ethic different from last year as far as coming in as a junior college player?
COACH PHILLIPS:He’s watching more film, doing those things, the little things. He’s always worked hard on the field, but I think he’s doing the little things. Trying to lead, he’s getting in there early in the weight room, doing all the little things that make guys great players.
Q. Is confidence an issue at the start of the game? Have you been able to put your finger on it?
COACH PHILLIPS:We always start off with confidence, because you feel good about the game plan and those things. They hit you for a couple of big ones. We’ve seen a couple of blitzes and get our safety down here and they break the tackle. I think you start second guessing yourself.
You know, it starts flowing, and it’s hard to stop. Somebody actually steps up and makes a play, and the thing isn’t happening until the second half. We’ve got to get (going) and start feeling better about ourselves in the first half.
Q. Talk about Mike Hartline. There are a lot of great quarterbacks in the league, but talk about what level he’s playing at, and with him getting the win.
COACH PHILLIPS:He’s playing at a very high level first of all. Mike’s playing as good as anybody in this league. You know, he’s not taking — he took three sacks the other day, but one let a guy come in, another one pressure was in his face early inside. One, I thought he probably could have gotten rid of the football, but he’s not taking unnecessary amount of (sacks). He’s going through his reads and hitting the right guy.
That fourth down is 4th and 7, and we have a guy close to the sticks. If he would have dropped it off to him, it would have been the wrong play at that time. But there is a guy over the top, which he’s supposed to read from high to low. They gave us the high guy, took away the low guy. That’s what we asked for him to do, and he made the play.
He’s playing within the system, but he’s also making plays when somebody else might screw it up or when the play breaks down. Similar to the one with Chris, Chris’s depth was wrong. Mike had enough patience to wait him out. But what happens, when he waits him out, he gets hit in the lips because he has to hold the ball a little bit longer.
He’s got a blitz coming, and we want for Chris to break the route out. He didn’t, but Mike has enough patience and toughness that I’m going to take this one because somebody screwed up the route. But we’ve got a chance to make a big play.
I just like the way his demeanor, his body language when he did get hit a couple times. He didn’t come off with bad body language. I just like his overall game right now.
Q. Are you happy for him personally?
COACH PHILLIPS:I’m very happy. I’m happy for our football team, because our football team, everybody here loves Mike. And every time somebody says something or does something to hurt Mike, I think it hurts our whole football team. I’m just happy for our football team.
Q. South Carolina people were telling them they were going to have a letdown game after Alabama and they were knocked off. You guys use that now for this week?
COACH PHILLIPS:Yeah, it’s happened two weeks in a row. People were saying it about Alabama, people were saying it about South Carolina. We’ve got to do what we do, too. Our football team, I really like the way they responded each week in the three losses. I expect them to respond the right way with this win.
Yesterday, and usually you see some differences on Sunday. It starts on Sunday. I thought Sunday it wasn’t any difference in the way our football team prepared.
Coach Oliver said the weight room, and we can’t get down and watch them lift. It’s not illegal, but we’ve got work to do. And the response that Coach Oliver gave us was those guys worked their tails off yesterday. They were enthusiastic the way they’ve been in the last four weeks.
Q. When you talk about Georgia and you made them sound awfully good. Why do they have four losses?
COACH PHILLIPS:I don’t think they have a guy that can make a play like A.J. (Green). He’s helped them out quite a bit. And they lost to South Carolina, they lost to Arkansas, they’ve lost to Mississippi State and Colorado. Those are some pretty hefty opponents.
They lost to Arkansas with 45 seconds left in the game. That was a tough, tough losses that they’ve had. Lost to South Carolina, they’re going in to score (until) a fumble in the red zone. Similar to us, we haven’t turned the ball over much, but when we’ve turned it over, it’s cost us points.
Q. Last year offensively it was a struggle to get first downs. Why is it so much different this year? Now it seems like people are just wondering why you don’t score. Why has it been opened up so much for you?
COACH PHILLIPS:I think Chris Matthews has helped a lot in opening things up and given us a chance to throw the football. La’Rod King is a year older. He was a true freshman last year. I think we’ve been able to manufacture some running games out of our sprints, one-back sets, too. I think that’s helped us also.
Q. Danny leads in the SEC with 70 tackles, what makes him so good?
COACH PHILLIPS:Speed. It’s that simple. He’s a guy that’s fast enough to get up underneath blocks and (beat) people to the spot. You have linementhat are trying to pull that might have leverage on them. They lose their
leverage because of how fast he is.
Q. Regarding Trevathan missing tackles while playing with a cast.
COACH PHILLIPS:He hasn’t missed many, so with the cast, he hasn’t missed many tackles. Danny is one of those guys that does put his face on people. That’s how he tackles. He puts your face on the ball.
He made a huge tackle, which he had to wrap up from behind and cause the fumble on the one late in the first half. So I don’t think the cast is hurting him, because he doesn’t miss tackles.
Q. Is Winston Guy starting to live up to what you were expecting?
COACH PHILLIPS:I expect him to make more tackles downhill. He’s had two big interceptions. He’s two ahead (of me), we keep counting. But I expect him to make more tackles downhill. Meaning, tackles for one and two-yard gains.
You see us have one and two-yard gain, and it’s blocked to the safety. That’s what I expect Winston to do is play down downhill faster, both our guys, not just Winston.
Q. Last year you went into the Auburn game and you had lost three straight before you won that one and now you win this one. What’s that say about the overall progress of the program?
COACH PHILLIPS:It says a lot. We’ve come a long way. Our guys expect to win, they play to win, and we’re getting enough plays to win when our backs are against the wall right now. That is the difference in the program now.
Q. Can you talk about Anthony Mosely and how he’s still learning the corner position. He had a pick, and fumble recovery (vs. South Carolina).
COACH PHILLIPS:Mo’s working. He works on and off the field as far as making sure he has the total game. Mo’s the fourth year he’s going to graduate. This semester he’s going to graduate in three and a half years. He’s a great person. I feel happy for him that he’s now starting to make some plays and be recognized here.
He’s a guy that can run. He came in here as a wide receiver. Struggled a little bit at the wide receiver, but it’s no substitute for a guy that can run like him.
Now I tell our kids all the time that if we just keep playing hard, those balls that didn’t bounce our way in the Auburn game, they bounced our way in the game last week. As long as we continue to play hard, and we played hard in the Auburn game also, but the balls didn’t bounce our way.
And Mo’s one of those guys that plays hard, okay. Cartier (Rice)was over the top of the route, and Mo was supposed to be in the curl, and he was, but when the ball was thrown, he should break back to try to help out. That’s just what he’s supposed to do, and the ball bounced his way because he was playing so hard.
Q. He just looks almost too nice to be a football player? You know what I’m saying? I don’t mean that wrong. Does he struggle to get a mean streak?
COACH PHILLIPS:He’s not nice. He’s a competitor. He is a competitor. Randall Cobb looks nice too.
Q. Not as nice as Mo.
COACH PHILLIPS:Every time I see the ladies they say how cute and nice he looks (laughing).
Q. This group of receivers now, are Chris and La’Rod, and Jordan Aumiller are they making strides where maybe the gap in the group from the one you had three years ago (in 2007), is it closer than maybe you thought it was?
COACH PHILLIPS:Yeah, definitely. With Keenan and all those guys? Yeah, I think it’s getting a lot closer. We don’t have the speed guy in this group than we have with Keenan. All three of those guys were speed guys, not blazing speed, but good speed. I think our guys now have average speed.
But what makes them be able to play with average speed is their length. They’re all over 6’3″. The taller you are, the slower you can be. Now they’re starting to have confidence in their ability to make plays.
Regardless of how tight the coverage is, you know, the Jeffery kid, not a real fast kid, but his confidence in making plays, especially after he played us last year, because before that he didn’t have confidence that he could make plays. Now he has the confidence that he can make the play, and that’s where our guys are getting regardless of how tight the coverage is. I definitely think that the gap is close.
Q. Is Chris Matthews the best wide receiver to wear number eight at Kentucky (referencing Phillips, who also wore number eight)?
COACH PHILLIPS:Felix Wilson was pretty good too here. But Chris is playing at a really high level, and I’m happy, happy for him.
You guys know what I thought about him as a blocker. He’s a physical blocker. His blocking is helping him also being able to get some separation in the pass game.
Q. You’re talking about the receivers and that group is getting closer to the group you had a couple of years ago. How different are they playing this year as opposed to last year?
COACH PHILLIPS:Well, last year, you saw a lot more single safety looks. You see one safety look, that means they’ve got more people in the box than you can block. Now they have to sometimes mix it up.
Last year they didn’t have to mix it up. They said, hey, I’m going to put one safety over the top, put this other one in the box and dare you to run the ball because you can’t throw it outside. We couldn’t. We couldn’t throw it outside. We were limited in what we could do.
We had to try to manufacture some run games, so we had to move receivers in to try to block that extra guy. We had to turn that extra guy that was in the box loose, and let either Cobb or Locke make him miss, or we had to run some quarterback run games. Now that evens out the numbers.
But this year, they give us two safeties, we can run the ball. They give us one safety, we can hurt you in the pass game. That is similar to what we did with Andre and those guys. We just read the amount of safeties. So now we’re having success, because we can play games with you. You can’t play games with us on offense.
Q. Does it make you feel better that you’re able to beat a good team, move the ball on a good defense without Locke just in case he’s not ready to go?
COACH PHILLIPS:I would have much rather had him. But it does make you feel good that we could move the ball without him, but I would have much rather had him.
Q. How did Donald Russell perform?
COACH PHILLIPS:He had an adequate performance. There were some runs that he missed, but he also made some huge plays especially in the passing game. But we didn’t get him started the way we needed to get him started either.
He didn’t turn the ball over. He caught the ball well. He protected it well. He played good enough for us to win.
Q. You never shy away about talking about the goals for this year. Most coaches only want to talk about the next game. They think it might be inviting disaster. Why are you not shying away from that?
COACH PHILLIPS:I am just talking about the next game. That’s all. The only way we get a chance is to win this next game. Our next game is Georgia. I’m not getting ahead of myself, definitely not.