By LARRY VAUGHT
Not only did Signal Mountain (Tenn.) quarterback Reese Phillips like new Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown when he met him last week, but so did his parents and high school coach.
“He’s a nice guy and my coach loves him and so do my parents,” said Phillips. “He definitely runs a system that I can fit into and succeed in, and that was very exciting to me.”
Phillips admits he rarely watched Texas Tech play — “I seldom watch anything other than SEC games, so I didn’t know much about him,” Phillips said — during the last three years when Brown was offensive coordinator there. He says he was a bit apprehensive and nervous to meet Brown and see how he would fit into his plans since he committed to UK under the previous coaching staff.
“He was very down to earth, kind of soft spoken but in a good way,” Phillips said. “He really connected with my parents. They like dhow confident he was and how he talked highly of me. My parents had a couple of questions for him, but really they just listened to what he had to say. They asked about academics, but mainly they let him talk and got all their questions answered that way.”
Phillips admitted it had been a “rough last month” with UK ending a 2-10 season and Joker Phillips and his staff being fired. Now new coach Mark Stoops has put together a young, aggressive staff that has seemed to revitalize the UK fan base.
“I have definitely sensed that type of turnaround in the last month,” Phillips said. “I definitely have felt the excitement come back. The Stoops hire was such a big hire, but the pieces he is putting around him is even more impressive. With the Stoops name, there are so many good recruiting spots to go to and I am just happy to be part of it.”
Brown also did one thing that Phillips was not expecting.
“He apologized for everything that has gone on the last month and said he understood what I was going through,” Phillips said. “That was a very gool thing. He’s just a good person. That much is very obvious. Once I finally met him, I was not nervous at all.”
Phillips was recently voted the East offensive most valuable player in the Toyota East-West Tennessee All-Star Classic at Tennessee Tech.. He was 10 for 10 passing for 95 yards and one touchdown in the East’s 41-20 win. He will also play in the National Guard Border Bowl Jan. 12 at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg when the Kentucky all-stars take on Tennessee.
Phillips will graduate this week and plans on being at UK in January for the second semester to start learning Brown’s offense along with returning quarterbacks Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow.
“It’s an even bigger benefit now to be there in January,” Phillips said. “It would be almost stupid not to be there. The opportunity to compete and learn whether I play next year or get redshirted is huge. Either way I get to learn the offense when everybody else does.”
Brown briefly discussed the playbook with Phillips during his trip to Chattanooga and Phillips has watched videos of Brown’s offense.
“Anything you do new will be hard, especially coming from the Wing-T offense like we ran. It will be a big transition for him, but his offense is something I can easily fit into,” Phillips said. “His quarterbacks put up big numbers, and I like that.”
Phillips also said Brown did not mention UK recruiting another quarterback.
“I am expecting I will be the only quarterback in our recruiting class,” Phillips said.