Notes from Joker Phillips press luncheon today at Commonwealth Stadium:
– Phillips was asked about the words of support he received from athletics director Mitch Barnhart on Friday. “I know it was a surprise to many,” but said that it was not a surprise to him. The coach said he is continually in contact with Barnhart and knows that he is supported.
– There were quite a few questions about recruiting. Asked what he is focusing on, Phillips said, “We need difference-makers.” He also said he would like to have more fifth-year seniors, lamenting that the program had to play some true freshmen in the past, like Ridge Wilson. On a similar topic, Phillips said he would not pull any redshirts at this point in the season unless it was an emergency.
– The term soul-searching came up a few times. Phillips said both the coaches and the players did some soul-searching during the open week. He said at least two players came into his office to talk about things. As for the coach himself, Phillips said that when he went out on the road recruiting, “I found there’s a lot of people with us.” As for himself, “I found out about myself. I’m ready for this job.”
– Phillips pointed to Jacksonville State’s win over Ole Miss last season. The Gamecocks also have Washaun Ealey, the former Georgia running back who scored five touchdowns on the Cats last year. “They look different from week-to-week,” said Phillips of JSU because their transfers “are starting to get comfortable.”
– Starting defensive end Collins Ukwu is doubtful for this week’s game. Phillips said he hoped to get Ukwu back for the Mississippi State game on Oct. 29. Ukwu has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury.
– Before the actual press conference, UK defensive end Jacob Lewellen was honored for being one of just 11 FBS players to be named to the AFCA Good Works Team for his community service. Lewellen was surprised with the award and by his family being on hand for the announcement. Representatives from Athletes in Action, an international Christian sports ministry organization of which Lewellen is a member, were also on hand.