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By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky coach Joker Phillips doesn’t mince words when talking about what worried him the most about his 2011 team coming out of spring practice.

“Our ability to put the ball in the end zone. We didn’t score the way we have been scoring points around here for a while,” said the second-year Kentucky coach. “We ditched the running game in the spring because we thought it was so important to be efficient in the throw game. That skewed the outlook on offense and our ability to put the ball in the end zone because we did ditch the running game. We will probably run more in the fall.

“I am pleased with how our defense is coming. We have quality players there and SEC speed at positions now because of the (personnel) moves we made. But my biggest concern is can we score enough points like we have been doing. We’ve always been able to score. Now we have a chance to stop people, but the concern is can we get our offense to the same level of our defense.
“We also didn’t protect the football well in the spring. Our backs put the ball on the ground way too many times. Our receivers were not real consistent in catching the football. Taking care of the football is a concern because we don’t want to put our defense in a short field situation, especially since we did a good job taking away the football for the first time in a long time on defense.”

32 Responses to Phillips’ biggest worry: Can UK score like it has been in recent years

  • Ben says:

    I think This has been the concern with Newton all along! He just has not been able to make the plays necessary to win games in the SEC. I hope for major improvement this fall, but it is good to see Joker has the same concerns.

    • larryvaught says:

      It does take everything working together, but scoring is a must and it really worries me that scoring worries JOker

  • Andy P. says:

    There’s no question Joker has zeroed in on the major concern for the coming season. If Morgan Newton can develop into a SEC quality QB, we will have a good season. If he struggles to make plays, the team will struggle.

  • TheProfessor says:

    Last year, the offense put up over 31 ppg, which is strong enough to put the offense among the best in the nation. However, the defense allowed over 28 ppg, which is up about 6 to 7 ppg from the prior two seasons. 28+ ppg allowed is not nearly good enough.

    Joker is right that the UK offense needs to hold the line on its offensive output it gained last year, BUT, the key to 2011 will be an improved defense against scoring.

  • Andy says:

    I think the O line will do fine but its the QB and WR that are of concern. Morgan needs to have a season of 3200 + yards passing so we can stretch opponents down field. The WR and QB need to be in the film room all summer studyingdefensive patterns and route running.

  • Ben says:

    If you hold teams to 14 points per game, but only score 10 points per game, you still lose! Offense, defense and special teams are all important. You have to excel in all three areas to have a championship team. I am glad for our defense, but I am concerned about our offense and special teams. Joker only has a limited time to produce and I hope he is successful! Defense is not the solution to our problem, it is only one small part to the solution.

  • TheProfessor says:

    Passing Yards, by season:

    2010 3501
    2009 1824
    2008 2234
    2007 3743
    2006 3597
    2005 1857
    2004 1845
    I agree that 3200+ passing yards is an appropriate bench mark, and I would say 3500+

  • Ben says:

    If Mike Hartline was quarterback than 3200 would be reasonable! I think that 2000 to 2200 would be more realistic. What from Newton’s past makes you think he is capable of over 3000? I just do not see it!

  • TheProfessor says:

    Ben, that is the big question on the offensive side isn’t it. However, my point is not a prediction that Newton will do that, but a statement of what level of output the UK offense will need to hold its ground, and not slip back into the obscurity it saw in 2009 and 2008.

  • Ben says:

    Professor I see your point about the offensive production! I do not think that 3200 is possible with Newton leading our offense. joker wants to improve, not just maintain! I just do not see KY getting it done in football this year.

  • Jim says:

    A QB can make a pretty big leap between one season to the next. As bad as Newton looked in the last bowl game, I can understand why there are so many worries about the offense. But, I am hopeful that he will be a playmaker, this season. As far as the receivers catching the ball, it will be just like the RB spots, if you drop the ball, you will be watching the games from the sidelines. We will have to wait and see, how ready these guys are come opening kick off.

  • larryvaught says:

    Newton’s improvement will be determined by how good his receivers are. If they play like they did in the spring, it would not matter if Tom Brady was playing QB for Kentucky

  • Michael says:

    Ben, Morgan Newton has never been able to win in the SEC??? I guess you counted the Ga and Auburn games his frosh year as losses? I think all the Morgan doubters will finally see what we had sitting behind Hartline. His Freshman year, Newton showed that he could do it with raw ability. Then, he went into learning mode and took a step backwards. I look this season for both his understanding of the offense, and his raw talent to come together. Morgan Newton won’t be this years problem. Somebody’s gotta catch his passes though.

  • Michael says:

    Also, it doesn’t matter how many yards you pass for if they are all 5 yrd passses behind the line of scrimmage. Hartline was able to get a lot of yardage, due to Cobb’s abilities, but he was never a deep threat, severly liiting our ability to get to the end zone. Hopefully, Joker trusts Newton to go downfield similar to the way he did Woodson.

  • TheProfessor says:

    3500 yards in a season is 3500 yards in a season.

  • Ira says:

    Michael I agree with you, Newton can throw all the balls in the world but if his WR’s don’t catch the ball it doesn’t matter. I believe there were at least 10 dropped passes in the spring game alone and Roark dropped four straight at one point.

    Everyone should note we do run a pro style offense that I believe is set up to do short and intermediate passing along with the run game. Its design is set up to pull the defense in to hit the long ball. Of course thats very simplified.

  • katnhat says:

    We will be fortunate if Newton can get 2200 yards passing. Some QBs throw knuckleballs which makes it harder for average WRs, which we have, to catch. This offense will have to rely on a veteran OL and will have to develop an Artose Pinner type back. Newton throwing 3000 yards is a pipe dream.

  • UKFMLY says:

    The recievers are the key. Newton will only be as good as the guy he throws the ball to. Too many dropped balls in the spring to make any of us happy.

    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. GO BLUE OR STAY HOME! ! !

  • clancyhat says:

    why does everyone seem to be ignoring special teams ? also, I think of 3 games at least that we lost because of turnovers

  • Michael says:

    Right Ira, and with Hartline, the deep ball was never a threat, so we effectively just hasd a short game. With Woodson, once the d was pulled in, he could find Johnson or Burton, or Lyons etc. deep. I expect Morgan to do the same.

  • Andy P. says:

    Well I see we have a Hartline hater in Michael who thinks Morgan Newton is destined for greatness. I hope you’re right.

    I want to see Morgan show a feel for the game and not resemble a tightend trying to play quarterback. I want to see Morgan turn busted plays into positive plays. I want to see Morgan find a way to move the chains and score touchdown. I want Morgan to find a way to win the game. If he does that, we will have a very good year because I firmly believe the defense will be dramatically improved over last year.

    • larryvaught says:

      I want to see Morgan be the Morgan we heard about when he was recruited. If he can, then UK will be fine at quarterback I think

  • Tana says:

    Well, I’ve been out of town for six or seven days, and it’s good to back here reading anything at all about Kentucky football. Thanks, Larry, as always.

    Certainly, though, obviously, our receivers simply must start making catches. Otherwise, we won’t be socring enough points to win as many games as Coach Phillips (and we fans, too, of course) wants his team to win. Joker fully realizes that — and after the spring game made it quite obvious that they’ll be looking closely at some of the true freshmen at both the receiver and running back positions.

    By the way, I agree with those who also see special teams as a concern. We must improve from last season in that regard. I’ve always felt that special teams (particularly field position) play a HUGE role in a football team’s success, and that those stats and the turnover deferential are far more important than many fans seem to feel. I still remember the role Glenn Pakulak’s punts played in the 7-5 season before Coach Brooks’ arrival, and I’ve always noticed that our better seasons usually involve our having won the turnover battle.

    Most of all, though, I can hardly wait for the season to begin, and I’m counting on improvement from last season from our defense and special teams — and much improvement offensively from the spring. Too, I’m suspecting the very positive Coach Joker Phillips is counting on the same (and, yes, knowing such must be the case). GO CATS!!!

  • Michael says:

    Not a Hartline hater Andy. I just never saw anything from him that said D-1 Qb. He did surprise me with a stellar season last year, but I thought we were forcinig a round peg into a square hole his whole career, and at best, we got one good season out of it. IMO Uk has to find a way to get more than 1-2 decent years out of it’s QB’s, and burying talent behind mediocre experience isn’t the way. I cheered for Hartline every game of every season he played, but that doesn’t mean I had to agree with the coaches decision.

  • Andy P. says:

    Well said, Larry. I too want to see the Morgan we keep hearing Joker talk about. That’s why I have a nagging concern that we have a disconnect going on. It’s Joker’s career on the line, so I hope he’s right. He will sink or swim with Morgan.

    Michael, had Hartline not gotten hurt in the South Carolina game in the 5th game of his junior year, you would have seen two very solid years of QB production.

    I hope Morgan turns out to be a better QB than Hartline, but I’ve been watching very closely and I haven’t seen nearly enough flashes of brillance. That worries me. No matter how green a kid is, if he has talent you see flashes.

    • larryvaught says:

      Andy, points well taken. Just have to hope this is the year for Morgan like it was for Andre his junior year.
      And like you, I worry about kick coverage a lot, too, after last year

  • Andy says:

    Mike,
    PPl said the same about Hartline but look at the numbers he put on. DOnt be too early to judge Morgan Newton yet.

  • Gerry says:

    You forgot the most important part of the team,and that is MOMENTUM.Sometimes it is hard to find,and when found,it can be lost very easy.Football takes 11 men on the field willing to sacrifice,do their job,and get as many of of our guys around the ball.

    General Robert Neyland,a fantastic coach at Tennessee,
    one said,”a man’s value to his team is inversely proportionate to his distance from the ball”.Now how simple can the game be,and I am not a Math major.

    Let’s move forward with old MO,and support the team this fall!

  • Tana says:

    I, too, vote for Gerry’s helping with those pregame talks, Larry. I LIKE it!!!

    Also, I so agree with Andy P. that Kentucky fans would have seen TWO years of solid play from Hartline at the quarterback position if Mike Hartline had not gone down with the injury so early in that second half of that South Carolina game (and many Kentucky fans never noticed that Hartline had performed nearly at perfection the entire first half). Too, Morgan Newton, based on folks’ comments from spring practice, has improved tremendously. Yes, may we fans just be ready to SUPPORT THIS TEAM THIS FALL — just as Gerry said. GO CATS!!!

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