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By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s played so well this season that he’s found his name on the Alabama recruiting radar, but Chattanooga quarterback Reese Phillips insists he’s still planning to honor his verbal commitment to Kentucky.
“Alabama did come and see and talk to me,” said Phillips. “I did plan on going (to Alabama) this weekend, but I have not decided if I am going. I just want to make sure if they are serious or not. I don’t want to waste my time. I am probably not going because I don’t have an (scholarship) offer yet.”
Phillips, who came to UK in September to watch the Cats beat Kent State, has kept up with Kentucky’s progress and knows what a struggle the season has been.
“It seems to have been a combination of a lot of things. Injuries, youth and maybe just not as talented as some teams,” said Phillips. “But there are definitely signs Kentucky can be a good team, maybe a six- or seven-win team next year. There are some bright spots, as well as some holes to fill. It’s kind of weird to watch a true freshman score a touchdown or a true freshman starting at quarterback. I am excited for the future because you can see there are some great athletes on the team that I think will only keep getting better.”
Phillips has paid attention to the speculation about coach Joker Phillips’ future, too.
“It’s not easy to watch and hear. I do pay attention to what is being said,” Phillips said. “I am not going to lie. Joker is one of my favorite people I have met through the whole recruiting process. I would love to play for him. You can see the team loves to play for him and that he is a good guy. He just hasn’t had a lot of luck.”
The quarterback said even if UK does change coaches, he would still be “playing in the SEC” and that’s what good players want to do.
“The only way I would not go to Kentucky would be if a coach came in and did not give me the time of day and I don’t think that will happen since I am the only quarterback in the (recruiting) class,” Phillips said. “That’s probably the only way I would not go to Kentucky, but I hope coach Phillips and his staff are all back.”
He’s also seen the learning curve that freshmen quarterbacks Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles have endured this season.
“I do plan to compete every day, but what they have been through does make a redshirt look more appealing. Look at Patrick Towles. I do not know much about his situation other than he went in and did well and then got hurt and that kind of screwed him up this year. I hope he recovers. I am excited to meet him. But I can see what a big learning curve I will have to adjust to.”
Signal Mountain High School coach Bill Price says his quarterback has improved dramatically from last year. The team started 1-3 but now has a five-game win streak, including a 61-21 win over Chattanooga Christian last week that secured a district championship and favorable playoff start in two weeks.
“He has a really good year without a strong supporting cast,” Price said. “Being a year old, he’s been more familiar with the offense. He’s become more of a leader. He’s running the ball a lot more, too. He understands what we are trying to do better. He’s adapted well to everything. He has a big-tie arm. He’s also a big kid. He is 225 pounds. He is smart. He’s the same type quarterback they have at Florida and Alabama. He won’t make a lot of mistakes and will put you in situations to win. He’s very intelligent. Right now he’s just wondering what’s going to happen at Kentucky.”
Phillips thinks he has played his “best football” ever this season when it comes to leadership and mental decisions. He’s also had to cope with numerous comments from opponents about his commitment to a SEC football team.
“Last week, and only because we scored 70 points, was the only time all year I had not heard dirty talk or comments about the SEC toward me,” Phillips said. “But it’s one of those things where if you are trying to tell me something, you can’t bash the SEC if you are a person not going anywhere to play. I just laugh if off.”