That won't change on Friday when Kentucky, which lost six of eight Southeastern Conference games, plays East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.
After Cobb became UK's obvious playmaker at receiver, the freshman had to take over as the starting quarterback. However, he won't play against East Carolina, either, because he hurt his knee in the regular-season finale at Tennessee and has not recovered sufficiently from surgery to play.
That means the Wildcats will face an aggressive East Carolina defense with Mike Hartline back at quarterback and no receiver with more than 18 catches - Lyons led the team with 33 catches for 264 yards in six games and Locke had 23 receptions for 195 yards in seven games.
"You cannot count on freshmen when they are all first-year players. It makes it hard when they don't have a good supporting cast of older players. It's just hard for freshmen to be the main men at receiver like we asked them to be," Phillips said.
It didn't help that Kentucky's run game never materialized. UK averaged only 129 yards rushing per game.
"Injuries hurt us a little bit, but a lot of things held us back," Phillips said. "We didn't run with our eyes much early. You have to have a guy to make people miss when they put an extra guy in the box. We didn't make guys miss like Rafael would do.
"We missed a lot of cuts and didn't break tackles. Once we did make a guy miss, we didn't block on the perimeter good enough. It was a combination of all that."
Kentucky's offense sputtered to an average of 298 yards per game, one of the worst marks in the country. That may not bode well against East Carolina, based on what Phillips has seen.
"East Carolina is fun to watch play defense because I always like to see teams that play hard and play physical," Phillips said. "All their guys are fundamentally sound. They are physical and play fast. They are a team that tries to keep everything in front of them and come up and separate you from the football. That is how they have won a lot of games."
Phillips says East Carolina's defensive philosophy is different from most of Kentucky's SEC opponents.
"They are different from teams that we have played. They are not really an attacking defense. They rely on good fundamentals and everybody stays in their gap and they just try to keep everybody in front of them," Phillips said. "They don't play a lot of man-to-man pass coverage. They prefer to come up to try and separate you from football."
Despite the 2-6 SEC mark and injuries to key players, Phillips insists he's enjoyed this year and nothing has tainted his enthusiasm to eventually become UK's head coach.
"It has been the most challenging coaching job I've ever been around, but it has been the most fun I've had. It has been like watching a newborn grow up. Every day, you could see change. You see your newborn crawl one day, then walk the next day," Phillips said.
"I had a lot of fun this year because we had to come up with different ways to get a first down. It was inch by inch just to get a first down. We also had to try and not turn the ball over, especially the way our defense was playing early. We just didn't want make mistakes.
"You have to learn to win different ways. We were not a team that could score 40 points a game this year, but you are not always going to do that. You have to adjust and find ways to win, and that's what has made this year fun because we had to do a whole lot of adjusting."