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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown was at the Kentucky Football Coaches Association Clinic in Danville Saturday and shared a variety of thoughts.
Question: How many scholarship quarterbacks do you like to have on the roster?
Brown: “I think everybody would like to have five. The perfect world is five. You have four classes with a redshirt in there, so you would like to have five. But I think you need four. Quarterback is so much different than any other position because only one plays, but you have to make sure you have depth. A prime example of that is last year at Kentucky (when they played four quarterbacks). They were one (more) injury away from really having a catastrophe there. So I think you want to have five, but I think four is what you can get away with.”
Question: Since your offense is based so much on timing, how do you get enough practice work for quarterbacks who are not No. 1 on the depth chart during the season?
Brown: “You have to be creative. You have to get those guys reps. If you look at the track record in this league, your second and sometimes your third quarterback are going to get quality playing time. You have to keep those guys sharp but at the same time you have to make sure your starter is ready to go. You have to be creative in how you practice. Sometimes you can go two groups so your backup quarterback is getting reps. I think you get your second team quarterback more reps than you normally would in some other leagues. I think it is all about creativity. They have to understand — and it is in their face from last year — that recent past shows stars can get hurt and they have to be ready to roll.”
Question: Even Reese Phillips came to UK in January expecting to be redshirted in 2014, but did his spring practice performance change that thinking?
Brown: “He played really well in the spring game. The thing I like about Reese is how he handles himself. He is a calm guy. The situation is never too big for him. He played in front of 55,000 (at the spring game), which is by far the most he has ever played in front of, and handled himself extremely well. I think a lot of it will be how he matures over the summer and how much more of the offense he can pick up and the first two weeks of the fall camp. If he can continue to make strides, maybe he could be a factor.”
Question: Since he was already committed to UK when you were hired and you had little time to evaluate him, did he surprise you in spring practice with his play and is he maybe better than you thought?
Brown: “I think that is fair. I didn’t really know a whole lot about him. The first time I saw him throw was at our spring practice. I liked his film. I liked his body makeup as far as his size. He is a big, strong kid. He had good grades, good family. All those things were positives, but as far as him as a football player, I didn’t know a ton about him. There were a lot of unknowns. It definitely was positive impression in the spring.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman quarterback Reese Phillips graduate from Signal Mountain (Tenn.) High School in December so he could enroll at Kentucky and go through offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s first spring practice with the Wildcats. Phillips completed 172 of 274 passes for 2,274 yards and 15 scores with just three interceptions his senior season and was named the MVP of the Tennessee High School East/West All-Star Classic after going 10-for-10 for 95 yards and a touchdown.
He offered his insights into his play, the quarterback competition and more after practice Friday.
Question: How has spring practice been for you?
Phillips: “It has gone pretty well. It has been a big adjustment, but I have got used to it somewhat any way. It is a big learning curve, but it has gone well.”
Question: How different is it to think you could still be in high school getting ready for maybe prom and instead you are competing with SEC athletes?
Phillips: “It is a little bit different for sure. If I was home right now, I probably wouldn’t be doing anything but out getting ready for prom maybe, so you are right about that. It is a big change, but it is good for me. It is hard, but it will pay off.”
Question: Has it been as hard academically and socially as it has been athletically?
Phillips: “They all kind of mesh together. Academically, my grades are good but it is different as far as lecture halls and stuff like that. I am not used to anything like that yet. Socially, everybody up here is real nice. I have met a lot of friends and people. It is different because all my best friends are at home, but it all kind of meshes together.”
Question: Do you feel you came in equal with returning quarterbacks because they had to learn new coordinator Neal Brown’s offense just like you did?
Phillips: “That’s the thing I have noticed is that everything is new, but still the speed of the game and stuff like that … even though Pat (Towles) and Jalen (Whitlow) have just been here a year, the still have had experience. As far as the material, we all ask each other questions because that is all new. As far as experience, it is definitely different.”
Question: What is easiest and hardest about coach Brown’s system?
Phillips: “It is pretty easy to understand. It’s not like the concepts are real hard or anything. The hardest part is the tempo. I went fast in high school, but it was huddle. I am not used to no-huddle. That is the biggest difference just the tempo.”
Question: Are you anxious to see what happens when other freshmen arrive in June, especially with a lot of skilled guys arriving?
Phillips: “Coach Brown says for us and some older guys we get four weeks of spring practice to prove ourselves and then those guys get two weeks in the summer to get a spot or whatever. The summer will be very important. Those guys are very skilled and can play. It will be up to them to get going.”
Question: Do you think a redshirt year is likely for you?
Phillips: “Probably. I don’t ever have that kind of mindset, but realistically yes. I am very realistic person. If I am redshirting, even being in a stadium watching someone else play is an experience. I might not be out there, but obviously playing in front of 70,000 people is a lot different than 3,000. That is an experience in itself.”
Question: What will the Blue-White Game Saturday with maybe 30,000 to 40,000 fans be like for you?
Phillips: “I am excited. Obviously it is different. I do get nervous before stuff like that, but I will be fun. Just relax and have fun. That’s what it is all about.”
Question: Will you have a lot of people from home come to the game?
Phillips: “Yeah. Actually I tweeted that probably half of the attendance will be my family and friends. Everyone is coming. I am excited and they are excited.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman quarterback Reese Phillips is never mentioned as a contender for the starting job at Kentucky but some who have seen UK practice have been very impressed with his play. Still, I thought he might have an interesting perspective on how Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles are faring in the quarterback competition.
Question: How do you see the quarterback competition going?
Phillips: “One of the scrimmages I could sort of tell (who was on top). Honestly, every day it is someone different (doing best). That is what coach Brown wants is consistency and we really have not had anyone who is real consistent. We have guys — and I won’t say a name — who have real good days and then all of a sudden they fall off and then come back. In my mind, I sort of know (who will be the starter) but I can’t tell you for sure.”
Question: What is the biggest thing Brown is looking for in a starting quarterback?
Phillips: “Tempo. Decision making. That is pretty much it. We can all throw it. Everybody can at this level. But it is decision making and living with your decisions and don’t second guess yourself. And tempo.”
Question: Does the quarterback have a lot of freedom in this offense?
Phillips: “We do have a lot of freedom. When we run certain combos or stuff like that, we can decide about running or throwing. He never gets on to us about our decisions. He might say, ‘Maybe you should have done this,’ but he has never got on us about that.”
Quarterback Reese Phillips, who was the Most Valuable Player of the Tennessee High School East/West All-Star Classic in December, has enrolled at the University of Kentucky for the spring semester, head coach Mark Stoops announced Wednesday.
“We’re excited about Reese getting started with us,” Stoops said. “Being able to enroll at mid-year and go through spring practice will greatly help his development.”
Phillips graduated from high school a semester early in order to come to UK now. He has enrolled along with two junior college players, tight end Steven Borden and defensive end Za’Darius Smith, who signed in December. All three players will participate in spring practice.
Reese Phillips, Quarterback, 6-2, 225, Fr-HS, Signal Mountain, Tenn. (Signal Mountain) – Two-year all-state quarterback at Signal Mountain (Tenn.) High School … Led team to a 7-4 record as a senior and an appearance in the Tennessee Class AAAA state playoffs … Completed 172 of 274 passes for 2,274 yards, 15 touchdowns and only three interceptions to earn all-state honors from the Tennessee Sports Writers Association … District Player of the Year … Was named the MVP of the Tennessee High School East/West All-Star Classic after going 10-for-10 for 95 yards and a touchdown … Led the East to a 41-20 win, setting a record for most points in the all-star game … Solid junior season as a first-year starting quarterback, throwing for 1,895 yards, 21 TDs and four interceptions while completing 71 percent of his passes, 132 of 186 … Was named a first-team all-state performer in 2011 by Tennessee Sports Writers Association … Started at tight end and defensive back as a freshman and sophomore, including sophomore campaign which saw Signal Mountain win the Class AA state championship with a 14-0 record (SMHS competed in 4A during his junior and senior seasons) … Known for a strong arm and consistent accuracy … Coached by Bill Price … “Reese is a very intelligent kid with a work ethic that is tremendous,” Price said. “He has a very strong arm and his accuracy is a big plus.” … A two-year all-district performer in baseball, playing shortstop and pitching … Junior year pitching stats featured a 7-1 record with an 0.85 earned run average, striking out 60 batters in 49 1/3 innings of work … Honor-roll student and member of the Beta Club.
Personal: Born in Chattanooga, Tenn. … Son of Stan Phillips and Elaine Reese … Reese’s grandfather, Harry, and great uncle, Dick, were members of the football team at Georgia … Reese is considering a major in communications.
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.
By LARRY VAUGHT
His team lost 42-41 in overtime in the first round of the playoffs after rallying from a 28-0 deficit, but Signal Mountain (Tenn.) quarterback Reese Phillips won’t spend long not throwing the football.
“I am taking a couple of weeks off football, then I am going to start throwing again with guys. Run, same process always gone through. I throw a lot but I have not ever had any shoulder problems. I throw all the time. I guess I have just gotten used to it. I have always thrown with my receivers. They are dedicated and that has helped me,” said Phillips, who threw for over 2,500 yards this season.
He was an early verbal commitment to Kentucky and has not backed off his pledge even though UK fired coach Joker Phillips after a 40-0 loss to Vanderbilt. He even plans to enroll at UK in January to get a head start on his college career.
“Right now I am planning on being there the next semester. It was hard to get everything in order. I am taking online English to graduate, and that was hard during football. But I am about done with it now,” Phillips said.
He said originally he was coming in January because “that is just kind of standard in the SEC” for quarterbacks.
“If you can come, they expect you to come early. But now it will a new staff, new offense. It actually makes more sense now than before because myself and all the other quarterbacks will be on the same competition level,” Phillips said.
“I am ready to get through high school. I love high school, but I am excited for the next stage, the next challenge. My mom is definitely not ready for me to do this quite yet. My dad, the brothers and sisters on his side have gone everywhere but I am the first on my mom’s side to leave for college. That’s a little hard for her.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
On my way to Atlanta for the Kentucky-Duke game, I took time to stop in Chattanooga to see Signal Mountain quarterback Reese Phillips, a UK commit. I spent about 45 minutes with him and coach Bill Price and even watched video of his final game, a 42-41 overtime loss where his team trailed 28-0 before rallying to force overtime behind Phillips’ play.
Question: What was your reaction to coach Joker Phillips being fired?
Phillips: “It was disappointing because you get attached to guys and people who give you the opportunity to play in such a high conference, but at the end of the day it is the way the SEC is. If you are not winning, stuff like this happens. It was disappointing, but I understood.”
Question: Have you been in contact with anyone at UK since Phillips was fired?
Phillips: “I talked to (offensive coordinator) coach (Randy) Sanders the day of (the firing), probably two hours after I learned what happened to Joker. He told me he was disappointed and didn’t really know about his situation. He pretty much just told me how it was. He kind of expected it. I think everyone did, especially after Vanderbilt (a 40-0 loss). A loss like that is hard.
“People kept asking me did I not expect it to happen. And I did. It was not like I didn’t expect it, but it is kind of like a surreal thing. You don’t expect yourself to get attached to somebody and then they get fired. Then it is like, ‘Man, what am I going to do now?’ But I am not worried about it. It is still a good situation.”
Question: So is it just waiting to see who the new coach is knowing you still have a chance to play quarterback in the SEC?
Phillips: “You can’t control it. I can’t go out and hire somebody. Me and (Signal Mountain) coach (Bill) Price have talked a lot about it. The really good thing is people say if they don’t bring in a system that will fit me, it wouldn’t fit the other quarterbacks because I am the exact same as the other quarterbacks, which is a good thing. In the long run, I think it will benefit me the best, so I am not worried about it.”
Question: What qualities would you like to see in the next coach?
Phillips: “Like Joker. I loved the way he was. Maybe he was not the best coach, but he was a great person. He made you feel like family right away and truly the way he made me feel and the reason I committed early. It is in the SEC and Joker was a good guy and coach Sanders was always someone I loved. Just qualities of a family man and respects his players and enjoys being around them.”
Question: What do you think of the speculation that maybe Bobby Petrino could be UK’s next coach?
Phillips: “I don’t know. I have never met him. I would have to talk to him and see what he is like. I have heard stuff about him, but you can’t go off stuff people say about other people. I would have to learn about him and get to know him. That’s the only way to really dissect somebody.”
Question: Would his offense be good for you and UK’s returning quarterbacks?
Phillips: “He has done some good things, so that is positive. He would definitely bring a system I would look forward to.”
Question: At your age, do you mainly judge a coach on what he can do for you and your team and not things that have happened in the past or not?
Phillips: “It would come down to winning obviously. That is the reason you keep playing is to win. Everyone wants to win. The way he treats me and how he is going to do for my future is important. If he can do good things for me and also put the team in a good place because Kentucky deserves it and a winning team and winning environment.”
Question: Could an offensive-minded coach like Sonny Dykes of Louisiana Tech do the same thing?
Phillips: “Honestly, I have heard his name but don’t much about him other than statistics people throw at me.”
Question: Are you not really that consumed with all the coaching speculation?
Phillips: “Not at all. I am just enjoying my last couple of months of high school. I trust everything will be fine.”
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.”
Sylvester Croom used to say, “I value time. To be late for anything is one of the most disrespectful things you can do.” When it comes to the recruiting game in the SEC you don’t want to be late to the game whether you have five scholarships or 18 scholarship to offer. No matter the number if you want a player you have to work for it before they will want to work for you.
Well it has been clear that the 2013 UK Football recruiting process by the time Spring ball ended was playing late in the game to say the least. While many of the SEC powerhouses like Alabama, LSU and the newbies in A&M & Mizzou had already reached commitments into the teen numbers. UK was still following far behind with only two commits to our list. A lot of the buzz was that with our limited number of scholarships which would total between 18-20 has caused us to be more selective.
While that’s a fair statement as I have said we can’t be frugal in our offers because we really need to create more depth on both ends of the ball – I can’t stress that statement enough. I am by no means saying to throw away an abundance of offers but just to not be afraid to open and look at other potential means of creating a stronger force for the Cats that will be effective in 2013.
Well, for most of our readers that have read my articles you know that my roots lie in the Lonestar state and the only orange you will ever catch me bleeding is burnt orange if I am not in Kentucky bleeding blue. With that said you will also know when it comes to recruiting in the SEC like many people in the BBN I do not like to lose to those Vols from Tennessee!
Third time was a charm for the Cats on the commitment trail. At a towering 6’4”ft. his quick release, pocket passing and pro-style ways are a force that the Wildcats needed to land in 2013. Just nearly a month since we landed our “signal caller” from Signal Mountain HS, QB, Reese Phillips’ infamous cryptic tweet turned him from “bleeding orange to bleeding blue.”
Let’s go behind the gridiron with 2013 commit Reese Phillips:
Clearly a lot of universities in your home state of Tennessee had their eye on you. What ultimately made you feel that the Big Blue Nation would be the perfect fit for you?
Phillips: “What about this decision is not a good idea, that’s what it came down to I mean you’re playing in the SEC, you’re playing for a quarterback guru in Randy Sanders, I will get a chance to play Tennessee every year, and lastly I am the only quarterback they want and it just felt like home immediately.”
Do you feel that being able to know where you are going to play ball in 2013 helps for you to concentrate and focus on your senior year campaign and give you the opportunity to improve your game overall?
Phillips: “This decision will definitely help me focus on my year in high school and I expect to be much more relaxed and be able to go out and do what I do. It can help me make my game better with all the free time and now that my future is set it will definitely help me.”
What do you see as some of the strengths and dynamics that you can bring to the table in the future for the Cats on offense to make an impact early on?
Phillips: “Leadership, consistency, accuracy… I believe these three things are some of the biggest things to success along with the mental part of the game, some quarterbacks around the nation might throw for 5000 yards or whatever but it comes down to the intangibles.”
What has your recruiting experience been like for you thus far and are there things that you would like to see in the future to improve recruiting process?
Phillips: “It’s been pretty great , but I would be lying if I said it has not been stressful, I’m glad it’s over in a way but it was a great experience no doubt.”
As you know the SEC has one of the toughest defensive lines in the nation, so what if any are some things you feel you need to improve on as a QB to help you be able to with stand the long haul at UK?
Phillips: “Maybe pocket presence, footwork, you can always improve on something no one is ever perfect but overall maybe pocket presence and the mental part of the game.”
What is your football playing philosophy?
Phillipa: “Consistency… I think this is the biggest thing to any sport really, I believe obviously a lot in leader ship and team first but as a quarterback and an all-around football player consistency is the biggest factor.”
Any last remarks you would like to share to our readers and the Big Blue Nation?
Phillips: “I just want to say how excited I am about being a part of the BBN, I have grown up an enormous Tennessee fan but I’m very excited to be all blue. I expect to be the starter eventually and I’m ready to learn and get better.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Chattanooga quarterback Reese Phillips knows plenty about the football facilities at the University of Tennessee and several other Southeastern Conference schools. However, to him, he was plenty impressed by the facilities he found on his visit to Kentucky and eventually gave his verbal commitment to UK on that June visit.
“I was impressed. It was pretty much everything I expected. The facilities certainly lived up to my standards,” Phillips said. “The practice fields were gorgeous. That was very impressive. The weight room certainly was up to SEC standards. I didn’t find anything that stuck out that I wish they really had that they did not. Kentucky obviously had pretty much everything I wanted.”
One reason often given for UK’s inability to compete with upper tier teams in the SEC is that UK’s facilities are not quite as good as other teams. Often one of the biggest drawbacks is thought to be the lack of a recruiting room at Commonwealth Stadium, but if that bothered Phillips he never mentioned it.
He said he had been to Tennessee, Duke, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Memphis and other schools for visits, so he certainly had a good base to compare UK’s facilities.
“Kentucky’s facilities are right up there. Maybe right behind Tennessee, but (NFL quarterback) Peyton (Manning) gave them $70 million. You can’t fault UK for not having that,” Phillips said. “Kentucky has great facilities. To me, it lived up to what I expected. It had all of the SEC standards and probably even a little more than I expected really. The facilities were really good. I saw no problems at all with what UK had.”