LEXINGTON - Kentucky won’t open preseason football camp for almost three months, but UK coach Joker Phillips recently shared his thoughts on the starting quarterback battle, his defensive front and what he hopes will be an improved return game next season.
Question: Is it good to have two quarterbacks, Morgan Newton and Maxwell Smith, with starting experience along with a highly-touted incoming freshman like Patrick Towles competing for the No. 1 job in August?
Phillips: “I think it is a good situation. It’s hard to have an argument for a guy who has never lined up at quarterback for us and does not know the system well. That does not mean there will not be an opportunity for him to compete. The other two, I think both guys have the opportunity going in to be the starter. After we go through camp, we’ll see if the young guy has a chance to be a starter. It’s hard to say that he could, but it could happen. Is he highly touted? Yes. But making that transition to college, you don’t know. You hope he can, but you don’t know how long it will take.”
Question: What did you feel the best about coming out of spring practice?
Phillips: “I would say defensive line. I think our front four with (Alvin) Dupree in four-down looks and guys like two anchors inside in Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph and Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham at big gives us as good a front four as we have had. That would be the strength of the program
Question: Should Cobble and Rumph be ready to emerge as big-time players?
Phillips: “Both of them are in their third year of playing. Cobble is going into his fourth year with us but only has one year of true playing time. This is the correct time for both of them to be dominant players. They are both third-year players and should be dominant players.”
Question: Will the return game be better and more effective than last season?
Phillips: “We have got a lot more bigger athletes who can run, block and cover and do things needed up front. We saw a little glimpse of Demarco Robinson and Daryl Collins in the spring and the ability they have with the ball in their hands. I do feel more comfortable about fielding the ball.
“We have better athletes like Kory Brown, Malcolm McDuffen, ¿Josh Forrest who can run and block people and cover also. We have more thicker bodies who can do what we want in the block game. Before teams would just run through us. The development of our linebackers and defensive backs will really help our special teams.”
Question: Could freshmen running backs Dyshawn Mobley and Justin Taylor make an immediate impact?
Phillips: “They could make a huge difference. They could play 11-12 games because they are physical and can handle the pounding in this league,” Phillips said. “Since I¿have been here, it has always been tailback by committee. We have had to play three or four guys and a lot of that had to do with their size and strength. We’ve had to play with smaller backs, but you like thicker backs that can move the pile.
“It’s a lot easier to play at tailback as a freshman than any position. You get your footwork down and run to daylight. Running backs are not made. They are both great players. They both have great vision, balance, strength. Both catch the ball well out of the backfield. If they are not great pass protectors, then we have to get them out on passing downs. But we have to give them a chance. Josh Clemons came in last year, worked hard and was not a great pass protector, but we got a lot out of him before he was hurt. They have the same talent.”