UK Football: Phillips says Wildcats' must get better play from linebackers
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips, shown Sunday during the Wildcats' loss at Louisville, said the Wildcats must get better play from their linebackers, all of whom are first-year starters. (Clay Jackson / September 5, 2012)
“Very, very disappointing. A lot of it is us, too. We have to give them a better plan so it’s easier to get lined up. I’m not just blaming the players, I’m blaming us as coaches,” Phillips said Tuesday.
However, he did single out Kentucky’s linebackers — all new starters this year — for their lack of playmaking in the loss and somewhat defended his defensive front.
“On defense, everybody puts the blame on the D-line. Our linebackers have got to play better. They’ve got to play better. They’ve got to get us in the right calls and then they’ve got to stay in their gaps,” Phillips said. “Our D-line didn’t play great, but they didn’t play as bad as everybody would think because a team runs for 200 yards on you.”
Defensive coordinator Rick Minter didn’t mince words about his unit after it gave up four touchdown drives of 71 or more yards, allowed two 100-yard rushers and forced quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into only two incompletions in 21 attempts.
“We need to be better. For us to compete in our league, we have to play a whole lot better, particularly up front. Did we expect more up front? Sure we did. But it is not about finger pointing at the front versus the back. Everybody had a hand in giving up 30 points plus, 460 (yards) plus and not being very good on third downs. Coaching to players front and back. So we have a lot of work to do,” Minter admitted.
He thought junior tackle Mister Cobble had a “couple of big stops” in the second half, but UK lacked that type of consistent playmaking — something it must improve this Saturday against seven-point underdog Kent State in the Wildcats’ home opener.
“We had guys in the holes at times, but we just don’t make plays. That’s a credit to their runners and receivers and blockers. It’s a combination. It’s never one thing. If you play a seven- or eight-man box, somebody is going to come free and somebody has to step up and make a play,” Minter said.
What about the linebackers — Avery Williamson, Bud Dupree, Miles Simpson and Tyler Brause along with backups Josh Forrest and Malcolm McDuffen?
“We have work to do. They played like four new linebackers to be honest,” Minter said. “Some of the positions are still a little bit of a work in progress to find out who can and will and is able to make plays. We have to make those determinations.
“It was an awful day at the OK Corral. Credit Louisville. They did a great job. They prepared well, played well. We played poorly and we have a lot of corrections to make. A lot of gaping holes in there. When you give up the running yards that we gave up, you have to realize is it assignment, alignment, tackling, ability, techniques or fundamentals? I am sure there was all that involved at one point or another.
“We have to eliminate the obvious. If it is an alignment/assignment, we have to get that corrected right away. Technique/fundamental, they are who they are and they will play the best and as hard as they can play.”
Phillips says he may turn to more young players on defense starting with Saturday’s game.
“Why not? Talent will overcome experience any day,” Phillips said. “You’re making mistakes as a sophomore or junior, it’s no different than a freshman who’s really talented. So you’ll see some of the other freshmen getting more reps, especially in the front seven.”
Phillips also said he was not worried about his team being despondent over the first-game loss.
“It’s still a long season. Still have a lot of games to be played,” Phillips said. “Today wasn’t hard at all. I think the attitude is good. I like the locker room, I just don’t like how we executed on the field.”