LEXINGTON — Kentucky’s improved offensive play the past two games has been attributed largely to the play of freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith along with the running of CoShik Williams and receiving of Matt Roark. However, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips says not to underestimate the play of the offensive line.
“Those guys have continued to improve. We gave up a sack late in the game (against Mississippi Saturday) but we probably could have got ball out of our hands before the sack took place,” said Phillips. “We are doing well in protecting and doing well in the running game. Those guys are doing a good job allowing us to do what our numbers tell us to do.
“We are making plays. There are plays we weren’t making early. We are getting behind people. We are running the football. We are taking care of the football. Those are things offensively that give you a chance and a lot of that is directly related to how our offensive line is playing now that those guys are healthy.”
Here’s what offensive line coach Mike Summers had to say not only about his players, but also the toll a 4-5 season and lack of consistent offense has taken:
Question: How hard is it on coaches when a season does not go the way everyone hoped it would?
Summers: “There are lessons to be taught from winning and losing. I got into this because of the influence I¿can have over the players I coach and that has not changed. I stand in front of them every day and have to show them how to handle adversity as well as success.”
Question: If you get down, who helps recharge you and get your enthusiasm back up?
Summers: “Basically, that is my dog. My dog runs from me when I come home because she worries I might kick her when I¿come in the door. No, I’ve got the absolute best coaching wife in the world. When I got her, she was already broken in as a coach’s wife (because her father is former UK¿basketball coach Joe Hall) for me. I¿know what this is. This is 33 years for me. There have been good years and been bad years. You learn how to stay positive and you know that you are in a leadership role and how I¿lead is going to mean out the players are going to play, so I¿have to come in every day with them and have a positive, energetic attitude. That is what my job is.”
Question: Do you teach more life lessons in a season where there are a lot of struggles than you do if everything goes well?
Summers: “I think all of us deal with disappointment and have to deal with setbacks and our plans not going for the way that we meant for them to go. Certainly those lessons might be more important than any I teach. I would rather not have to go through a whole season teaching that. I¿am in this because of the players. Certainly winning is a big part of my job. We use every situation, every opportunity to try and teach.”
Question: How do you feel about the way your unit has progressed, especially after they all got healthy?
Summers: “I am pleased with their progress. They have continued to listen to what I¿tell them and have continued to learn and gotten better. I¿have seen this for a number of years. You just don’t piece mill an offensive line and get production. We don’t have dominant players up front, but we have guys that have experience and when they have played together that experience is starting to surface.”
Question: How have the backup players progressed this season, especially since they don’t get a lot of actual playing time in games?
Summers: “They are developing. The spring practice will be more time for them, but technically every day they get individual work and work in our group work. I have seen a lot of improvement.”
Question: Will it be like starting over next year since you could lose three or four players off this offensive line?
Summers: “It’s always exciting to have new guys and new personalities and new energy level. I am excited about these younger guys. I think there are some good players in that group.”