Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips announced on Thursday that CoShik Williams will open the season as the starting tailback.
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said after practice Thursday that senior tailback CoShik Williams has earned the starting tailback job.
“He deserves to be the starter the way he finished last spring,” Phillips said about Williams. “Pound for pound he is probably the strongest guy on our football team. He works as hard as anybody. He deserves to be the starting running back. Plus his knowledge of our offense is probably better than anybody on our football team.”
Williams practiced for the first time Wednesday since sustaining a minor ankle sprain in Saturday’s scrimmage. Phillips said the competition at tailback may have led to Williams “healing quicker.”
Williams led UK in rushing last season with 486 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in Kentucky's season-ending win over Tennessee, which snapped a 26-year losing streak to the Vols.
UK returned to practice Thursday morning after taking off Wednesday for the first day of classes.
“I think we were really sharp today,” Phillips said. “We flew around and this was really the first day we had swapped scouts, meaning the down-the-line defensive guys gave the offense a look and the down-the-line offense guys gave the defense a look.
"I thought we were better organized than we have ever been around here in getting those switches. A lot of that has to do with our guys understanding how we practice. A lot of crisp routes, crisp passes that were caught and our guys competed. I’m pleased with today, on our first day of preparation for Louisville.”
Phillips said the Wildcats just scratched the surface of its game-planning against the Cardinals, doing basic offensive and defensive prep, while also touching on some special teams.
“You start with our base runs and base passes,” Phillips said. “Same thing on defense, you start with Louisville’s base runs and base passes and start expanding from there in the special teams areas.
"We started with our punt team and kickoff return. We got a good start and we have a lot more preparation to go obviously, but we have time. That time is becoming shorter everyday but we do have time to keep expanding on the packages.”
The big news from practice this week has been the announcement that sophomore Maxwell Smith will start at quarterback in UK’s season opener. Phillips said since the announcement, Smith has been, as expected, more comfortable and confident.
“He looks comfortable and you know how that goes,” Phillips said. “Once it’s announced the starting guy gets a little more comfortable, the guys feel a little more comfortable with him and you are able to lead a little bit better. He is a little bit more vocal because now he knows that it is his. The guys around him have responded the same way he has.”
Phillips said senior quarterback Morgan Newton got most of the second-team reps on Thursday with freshmen quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow getting most their reps on scout team. Phillips said the two freshman will get more reps with the second-team offense later this week.