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News, notes and quotes from Joker Phillips' time with the media on Wednesday:
###Kentucky travels to Arkansas this week and by the sound of it that plane ride is going to have a bunch of kids on it. Phillips said the traveling party will be 68 instead of the normal 70 and that they took 46 freshmen and sophomores when they went to Florida last month. What will that number be this week? Even Phillips didn't want to know: "I'm a little scared to look this week," he said.
###Arkansas throws for 299 yards per game as a team. With Tyler Wilson at the helm that number is 315 yards per game. Kentucky will arrive in Fayetteville with five true freshmen expected to see extensive action in the secondary. Recipe for disaster?
"It's a challenge but it's an opportunity for some young guys that we brought here," Phillips said. "All five of the freshmen are going to play. We expected them to help us this year but didn't expect them to be starting in our fourth SEC game, but we'll throw them out there and see how it goes. Neloms didn't practice. Benton didn't practice, and also Ashely (Lowery) didn't practice. If they can't practice (Thursday) we won't take them (to Arkansas). We'll put those young guys out there along with the veteran Cartier Rice and go play."
###Another byproduct of not having Neloms and Benton is true freshman Zack Blaylock is going to have to make a lot of coverage and alignment calls on the road:
"It's a huge challenge," Phillips said. "The guy who will make most of the calls is Zack Blaylock, a guy who doesn't like to talk. Maybe he could text them during the game. He's got to (talk) this week. He's going to be forced to communicate and try to get them lined up. It's a huge challenge with all the different formations (Arkansas) gives you, but it's an opportunity."
###As for QB, Jalen Whitlow continues to get as many repetitions as he can handle in practice this week as the staff tries to prepare him for his first road start:
"Jalen Whitlow took about 75 percent of the reps and I think that's in order to try and get him ready to operate in this game," Phillips said. "He's been really sharp. We're really just now figuring out what he [i]can do, what he likes, and try to expand on that. The ball is getting out of his hands fast, which is important, and he has pretty good command of it. We have to continue to work him and that's why he's getting 75 percent of the reps.
"I really like how calm he is. I've never seen a freshman that's as calm and laid back, comes off the field and communicate with you what he's seeing. He makes mistakes but he understands the mistakes. How calm he is is one of the things you like about it. He's not a real talkative kid either but he does a really good job communicating. He's really cool. Nothing rattles him."[/i]
###I asked about Patrick Towles, who was again seen leaving Nutter Training Facility on crutches with his ankle in a boot: "He's rehabbing. He's been over here as much as he possibly can," Phillips said. "He's a guy trying to get back as fast as he possibly can. He's told us how fast a healer he is and we'll get to see. I wouldn't put anything past him. The guy is a tough guy, mentally and physically a tough guy."
###Meanwhile, Maxwell Smith is off crutches and just in a walking boot. He told reporters as he left Nutter that he told trainers to get rid of his crutches. When asked for an update it sounds as if there is a possibility - however faint - he could be back for the final two games of the season if rehab goes well:
"That one was probably five to six weeks is what we thought and with five or six weeks what do you do with the last couple of weeks?" Phillips said. "We have an open date in there so we'll have to make a decision. If you're looking at it today and nobody gets injured he's a guy you have to hold, but if something happens down the road and he's the only one who is available he might have to play."
###Since it's the midway point of the season I asked Phillips how coaches handle things when the first half hasn't been anything close to what they had hoped for. Do you 'reboot' the season, so to speak? Do you wipe the slate clean and worry only about how you perform the next six? How do you handle it?
"You can't start from scratch but you try to break the season up," Phillips said. "There is no reset button. We wish there were in this type of season but there isn't. Every Thursday and Friday we do our self-scout to try and find out what we are doing good and what we are doing bad. We try to look at our tendencies."
Praying for no more injuries. These injuries not only hurt now, but hurt in the long run with players not getting real game action and experience. There is no subsitute for game speed and the only way you get better is to keep repping and gain experience. Next year we will have a whole team of players that got 2, 3 or maybe six game day experiences at best. Which will leave us inexperienced....again.
At this point I don't care how fast Towles heals, he needs to take the rest of the season off and apply for a medical redshirt. After missing half the season and being injured pushing him back out there during a lost season is a waste. If we suffer another QB injury just play Newton. Its not like the game result is going to change anyway.
if Whitlow doesn't get hurt himself, which with his scrambling style and taking hits I'm not sure is gonna happen, it said that Smith if rehab goes well could be back for the final two. These next couple are big
Gotta keep Whitlow healthy for 3-4 games here then maybe Towles or Max will be healthy at that point. I worry that Whitlow will get hurt too but like you guys praying that doesn't happen.
I don't expect Whitlow to get hurt, for a couple of reasons. First of all, athletic QB's who scramble well really don't get injured that often. It has become cliche over the years to say that QB's who run a lot will get hurt, but they actually tend to get injured less than QB's in the pocket, so long as they aren't careless with their bodies and know when to go down or step out of bounds. Second, Joker has been raving about how loose and calm Whitlow plays. That tends to help a guy avoid or minimize the risk for injury as well. Most injuries for a QB or ballcarrier occur when they tense up or play too cautious out of fear of getting injured. The ones who play loose tend to be able to absorb hits better and, as a result, don't get injured as often.
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