LEXINGTON - The University of Kentucky football team hit the practice fields Wednesday to continue its preparation for Saturday’s showdown with No. 19/20 Mississippi State at 12:21 p.m. ET inside Commonwealth Stadium.
The talk around the team this week has been the quarterback position and Wednesday was no different. Phillips spoke after practice about the two true freshman quarterbacks that will take the field for Kentucky on Saturday. Phillips seemed pleased with how both practiced Wednesday.
“Physically they look good,” Phillips said. “They both can throw the ball and they both had bright eyes today. Those guys are excited about having an opportunity. We will put them out there and see what they can do.”
Phillips said one of the biggest keys for both players will be getting them in comfortable situations and play calls. Phillips said both players have to be able to sell the play call to the other players on the field, which means they need to be confident.
“You have to have communication between the coaches and players so we will ask them what they like and what they dislike and then go from there,” Phillips said. “The quarterback has to be able to sell. He has to be able to get in the huddle and say, `This is going to work.’ That has a lot to do with it. It might not be the right call for that defense, but the quarterback has to feel comfortable enough to get in there and sell it.”
Although Phillips and Co. saw a lot of Whitlow last week in game action, the jury is still out as how Towles will handle the speed of the game in the Southeastern Conference. Phillips said the no-huddle, shotgun style will help Towles because it’s similar to the offense he ran in high school.
“He has pretty good control of the ball and knows where it is going,” Phillips said about Towles. “The thing is getting him in the game and seeing what he can do and how accurate he can be in a game. A game is a lot faster than practice. We are going against scouts right now and he does get a few reps with ones-against-ones but we are mostly going against scouts. The game will be a lot faster on Saturday and we will get to see what he can do and go from there.”
Both Whitlow and Towles will have their hands full on Saturday with a talented Mississippi State defense. The Bulldogs lead the nation in turnover margin, including nine interceptions this season. Phillips said the MSU secondary, which is full of veterans, is the main reason why.
“You can’t stare down receivers, you have to anticipate receivers getting in and out of their breaks and get it out of your hands,” Phillips said. “You can’t throw down the middle late. Those guys have nine interceptions and lead the nation in turnover margin. A lot of that has to do with their secondary.”
Phillips did have bad news after practice when he announced that starting tailback Coshik Williams, who is a fifth-year senior, would miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury.
“Coshik Williams is done for the season,” Phillips said. “He had a torn labrum in his hip after getting the MRI back. We will have that repaired as soon as possible. He is out after playing a game (vs. Louisville) and 14 plays (vs. WKU). Again, next man up. That is the attitude that you have to take and those guys have done a good job that have been in there with Jon-Jon (Jonathan George) and Raymond (Sanders). That means now that the young fellow (Dyshawn Mobley) is getting closer to getting more reps. I know the question will be about Justin Taylor, if something should happen to one of those guys and we think we can get him the type of reps that we thing we can get (Patrick) Towles than he will play, otherwise he won’t play.”
Williams, who came to Kentucky as a walk-on, played in 25 games as a Wildcat, including seven starts. He rushed for 738 yards, averaging 4.3 per carry, with seven touchdowns. He had a career-high 148 yards last season in the win over Jacksonville State, along with 111 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Ole Miss. He also scored what proved to the game-winning touchdown in the historic triumph over Tennessee.
As a sophomore, his top game came in the win over Charleston Southern, when he ran for 95 yards and a career-best three TDs.
“I feel heartbroken for him because the guy has worked so hard,” Phillips said. “Everybody knows his story. The guy came here as a non-scholarship guy and worked his tail off to be a starter and is now out for the rest of the season. The reason why he was the starter is because the starter was already out in Josh Clemons. The next guy has to be up.”
Kentucky will return to the practice fields Thursday.
Downtown shuttle change for Saturday’s game: Due to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in downtown Lexington on Saturday, there are some changes to downtown shuttle program for Saturday. Fans wishing to utilize the downtown shuttle need to park in the Rupp Arena parking lot on High Street and avoid the Transit Center Garage area on Vine Street due to the race. Fans should access the Rupp Arena parking area via High Street. The foot race, which starts at 9 a.m., will begin at Phoenix Park at East Main Street and connect to High Street via Grand Boulevard. The race will then turn off High Street at North Upper Street and take Short Street and Midland Avenue before connecting back to East Main Street.