Hear from Coach Phillips tonight on ABC 36 News at 6!
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Ready to start with Coach Philips. We will turn it over to Coach Joker Phillips, now 3‑0 in Senior Day Games with the Wildcats.
COACH PHILLIPS: Demarco Robinson will be day‑to‑day and I wanted to announce ‑‑ and I was a little ahead of myself, that we will give a game ball for this (Samford) game ‑‑ many of you have heard about the ex‑Cat who is battling pancreatic cancer. I had a chance to go down and visit with him during the open date. There is no bigger Wildcat than him. I was reluctant to give you guys the name a few weeks ago but Mike Scott is his name. He is battling cancer, and we will give him the ball.
There is another thing I would like to challenge not just the ex‑Cats but the state of Kentucky. He has a Facebook page, it says "Prayers for Michael Scott" and then there is a link called "Give Forward" and I would like to challenge a thousand Kentuckians to give $100, I understand there are those that can't, but for those that can, I would challenge them too. Nobody loves this school more than Mike Scott, and we will give him the game ball from the game this past week.
Tennessee, offensively (averaging) 36 points a game. Explosive offense led by the quarterback, second in the league in total offense, first in passing. The quarterback, (Tyler) Bray, is a big‑time player and has been for a long time down there. Two really, really, good talented receivers, potential first‑round receivers if they stay. I'm sure those guys will be listening, but I think those guys have first‑round talent in (Justin) Hunter and (Cordarrelle) Patterson, and good back in (Rajion) Neal, and offensive line has been together for three years so offensively explosive.
Defensively, personne-lwise, got some good personnel, only two seniors on their defense, A.J. Johnson is the underclassman, second in the league in the tackling, and the (Byron) Moore kid is thesafety and leads in interceptions.
Special teams they have returned a punt and a kickoff (for touchdowns) and Patterson has done those, so I think there is some talent there. It will be an emotional game for them, also, a big game for them and a big game for us trying to send the seniors out the right way. Questions?
Q. Not many coaches have beat Tennessee two years in a row … You have an opportunity to do that. What does that mean?
COACH PHILLIPS: It would mean a lot just to finish out for these seniors. There's a lot of history like that that we're trying to change, and this would be one of those things that would be a plus, one of the things that this class has changed if we can get it done.
There was some history. We never beat (Coach Steve) Spurrier; this class got a chance to do it. Twenty‑some years of not beating Tennessee, this class had the chance to do it. So this would be another thing they have done that nobody here has done before.
Q. Question re: Pittsburgh having an interim coach when UK played them in the BBVA Compass Bowl two years ago.
COACH PHILLIPS: Are you talking about Pittsburgh?
COACH PHILLIPS: I didn't get that sense. It was another game for those guys, you're talking about a talented football team that we were playing on that day. There were five draft picks on the Pittsburgh team, do you know how many we had? If you take away a guy who came out early? Zero. That was some talent on that football team there.
There is some talent on this football team, also, that we're about to play. I think there is potential two receivers, good as guys as I've coached before and I've got some pretty good ones playing in the NFL, talented quarterback and guys go out and play, and this game is an emotional game.
I think they play that way because it's their last game. I expect ours to be (emotional) for the last game. I don't think it will be for the coach, I think it will be for them, their emotions surrounding the fact that it will be their last time to play together.
Q. Joker, what do you hear from the guys about fitting into the new coaching system?
COACH PHILLIPS: I haven't given them a chance to talk to me about that. One thing I learned is you can lead the conversation with pretty much anybody.
I have tried to lead the conversation with those guys -- hey, you're going to have a great time here, man, I went through the same thing. It's going to be good; you guys are going to be successful. I heard coach Nord talking yesterday, we had Demarco (Robinson) and Daryl (Collins), after seeing Daryl in this past game returning kicks and he said, "I expect ‑‑ if you guys don't become great returners, okay, you guys are freshman and sophomores. If you don't become great returners, I'm going to come in here and kick both your rear ends."
We've got to leave these guys with positive attitude because the show goes on, and that's what we have tried to do. I heard one of the guys say, "I don't know about being here," and I said, "What do you mean you don't know about being here? It's the place for you." It is the place for them, and I expect them to stay here, stay together and get this thing turned.
Q. What kind of year do you think Avery Williamson would have going into the year he has a chance for 140 tackles?
COACH PHILLIPS: I thought he would have a good season. Avery was ready. Again, a self‑made man, worked his rear off in the weight room, and he became a student of the game this year.
He was ready because of all the snaps that he had played in the past. He's been a backup for two years, and the unfortunate thing is he had to play as a true freshman and he didn't get as many snaps as he would have liked or we would have liked, but imagine Avery Williamson (if he were) a sophomore now.
Q. Re: Tyler Bray
COACH PHILLIPS: I think they have thrown for over 400‑some passes and taken five sacks. You know, the guy doesn't take sacks, he's making good decisions.
We beat those guys with an immature sophomore last year; that's what he was. He was an immature sophomore that has grown up. That's what he was; he was a sophomore. He's a guy who didn't start his whole freshman year, started every game this year, but his sophomore year he didn't start the whole (season), and didn't start a lot as a freshman, so I bet he played a total of one season last year.
And numbers change as those quarterbacks grow up. You will see the numbers change on these guys here. We were looking at it today, Max (Smith) threw for 960‑some yards in three games and two plays. We've thrown for 900 yards in 7 games (since then). Max was headed to almost a 3500‑yard year, okay? But you insert a young freshman, and that's what Bray was last year, now he's a guy making good decisions.
It helps to have ‑‑ also last year Hunter was out, Rogers was the only receiver. If you talk about go‑to receivers, there is no such thing. You can roll coverage to the go‑to receivers, and we eliminated Rogers last year which made Bray have to find another option and those options couldn't make plays for them.
Now they have not just Patterson and Hunter but they have a good inside slot receiver that can make plays for them, also. I remember saying Jacob Tamme will be the late receiver in this ‑‑ I said that. I didn't know that Stevie Johnson would catch for 1300 yards and 11 touchdowns. You can take Jacob Tamme, and you can take ‑‑ but they didn't really take away Jacob Tamme, but they had options.
Same with Bray, making good decisions, and they're stretching the ball down the field.
Q. Joker for the first time I can remember you're out here without your "UK" gear on.
COACH PHILLIPS: You've got to start to separate. I understand this is still my University. My family is coming up Thanksgiving, we've got 50 family members coming up. We'll draw names and see who gets to pick out what. I've got a lot of stuff. (Chuckles.) That's the way it should be. They should be able to enjoy it. Hopefully I've got to make room for some other gear. That's what it's about.
Q. Question regarding Maxwell Smith’s recovery …
COACH PHILLIPS: He will be ready for spring. He's already standing and throwing but he's not dropping back and throwing. He's a guy that will be ready to compete in the spring with a couple of really good young freshmen also, to be sophomores, but Max will be ready. That was the goal, to get him ready for spring.
Q. While you were here as a player y’all didn’t play Louisville, but since then the U of L series has become a big deal here. Talk about what the UT series was like when you were playing and what you think it's like now.
COACH PHILLIPS: I think it would have stayed Tennessee if we would have made it competitive, if it didn't take 26 years to beat 'em. I think it would have stayed that, but it's not as big as when (I played) ‑‑ there was a red letter, program goal game! I tried to make it that again because that's what I was used to.
Some of the people who came in since myself and Coach (Jerry) Claiborne, was really not the program goal. I thought I had to make it the program goal, and it still is that, and it still should be that after this is over with.
So it is a big game. It's a big game for me. I think I played my last game against these guys and somebody was saying on the same date; Evan (Crane) brought up to one of our guys over there. I'm excited to go out and have these seniors try to win one on the same date that I did.
Q. Re: Tennessee defense.
COACH PHILLIPS: They are a talented bunch. Defense comes down to tackling, getting lined up and tackling, and there are some good offenses in this league right now, there are some pretty good offenses, some pretty good quarterbacks.
Guys, football has changed, it's so different than ‑‑ a lot of guys try to compare when they played, when I played ‑‑ I'm not one to compare, it's so different today. It's a much more violent game and (more) scoring. I can't believe the amount of points that have been scored! Every Saturday morning we used to look at the high school scores here in the state and look how many teams would get beat by 50. There is not ‑‑ seldom is there a 10‑7 game nowadays and I think defenses are at a disadvantage.
If you saw the block that we ‑‑ that (Rashad) Cunningham made. That's what I used to teach. That's what I used to go for. The hit on Aaron (Boyd), that's exactly what every defensive guy that I've ever been around used to teach.
So it's a lot of points scored, and it's so hard to stop really good offenses and quarterbacks. It's hard to stop a good quarterback, it is, that has the type of weapons these guys have and has the type of weapons that some of the guys in this league have.
Q. Joker, did you want to be a head coach again?
COACH PHILLIPS: What I want to do is relax for now and see what happens. I'm not closing the door on anything, you know? You got a job at your place? (Chuckles.)
Hey, I would love to be able to write my story from home in my pajamas (Chuckles.) and push "send" and have somebody edit it for me. You know? Hey, what do you think about this? I'll proof it and get back to you. My work is proofed on Saturday.
Q. Are you going to start Gene McCaskill or Aaron Boyd at quarterback …
COACH PHILLIPS: Maybe. No.
Before I get out of here, you guys have been great, fair, I understand the business. You're fair and I've gotten to be friends with many of you. Not as close to some of you but we don't have but 15, 20 minutes to be together, but I understand you and appreciate you and maybe our paths will cross again, all right? Thank y'all.