By LARRY VAUGHT
One year ago Kentucky got the face to its 2012 recruiting class when quarterback Patrick Towles of Highlands gave the Wildcats an early verbal commitment.
Now it could happen again after Signal Mountain (Tenn.) High School quarterback Reese Phillips has ended his college search by giving his verbal commitment to Kentucky during an unofficial visit Wednesday.
Phillips, who also had scholarship offers from Memphis and Middle Tennessee, threw for 1,895 yards and 21 touchdowns by completing 71 percent of his passes in a Wing-T offense.
Ward Gossett, assistant sports editor of the Chattanooga Tiimes Free Press, says Phillips’ arm is impressive.
“He can make all the throws, but especially good on fade route. Every recruiter that saw him said he can definitely make all the throws. He’s a shade over 6-2, about 215 and still growing. Doctors told his mom he’d be 6-4 or better,” said Gossett. “This kid is a pro-set type quarterback. He can run but he isn’t going to outrun any linebackers, and maybe not a defensive end, but he’s tough enough to lower a shoulder and smart enough to know when to slide.”
Gossett believes Phillips’ “potential is unlimited” based on what he did in only 10 games last year when he had just four interceptions.
“He is a smart kid at a grades-tough school (3.75 grade-point average, 20 on ACT only time he took it). Started as an eighth-grader in defensive backfield and returning punts and kickoffs. Has played corner, safety, linebacker, defensive end and split end. Good football smarts,” Gossett said.
The Chattanooga writer says he was not surprised by Phillips’ early commitment to UK.
“He fell in love with (UK offensive coordinator) Randy (Sanders) and told me earlier that he had a good feeling about Kentucky before his unofficial trip Tuesday and Wednesday,” Gossett said.
Phillips did grow up a Tennessee fan and said he had “known about” Sanders, a former offensive coordinator at Tennessee who coached Peyton Manning, for a “long time” before he was being recruited by Kentucky.
“He is someone I wanted to work with,” Phillips said. “I grew up a huge Tennessee fan. It was hard at first to start the recruiting process and not have a lot of love from Tennessee. But it’s all a business and eventually you figure out you cannot have favorites. You go with what you are given. I am not disappointed because I am very happy to be going to Kentucky. But I do look forward to playing Tennessee every year.”
Phillips knows former Wildcat Randall Cobb, a Tennessee product now playing for the Green Bay Packers, is one of several Tennessee high school standouts that flourished at UK.
“Everybody knows about Randall. I hope I can impact the program like he did,” Phillips said. “Kentucky in general is a good fit for me. It felt like home quickly. My mother was with me and would support me no matter what, but she had the same feelings I did. We both said it kind of reminded us of Chattanooga.”