November 12, 2012

Phillips, seniors prepare for final home game

Senior Day is usually a time for coaches and players to begin to say goodbye to each other. But usually, only the veteran players are on their way out.

That won't be the case on Saturday when Kentucky (1-9, 0-7 Southeastern Conference) says goodbye to its 17 seniors against Samford (7-3, 5-3 Southern Conference) at Commonwealth Stadium. It will also be the final home game for head coach Joker Phillips.

"The main thing we're thinking now is that this is going to be the last time we'll all be together," junior defensive tackle Tristian Johnson. "It's not just with the coaches, but the seniors. Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham are guys I've known my whole career here."

He's known Phillips even longer than that. The head coach recruited LaGrange High School heavily in his time as an assistant and a coordinator for the Wildcats.

Not every player had such a strong tie to the program when they were being recruited. Senior defensive end Collins Ukwu committed to the Cats without even seeing the campus. He'd watched them play a game in Nashville, but decided to take the plunge anyway.

Now he'll leave UK with a degree while making preparations for a chance at the NFL.

"It's been a fun ride, and we only have two more weeks of it," Ukwu said. "We're just soaking everything in."

Most of the seniors for Kentucky signed on when the Wildcats had just begun to string bowl games together. UK will miss the postseason for consecutive seasons as they wrap their careers up, but Phillips still sees hope for program. Even when UK found some success in 2006 and 2007, the coaching staff still sold players about the future of the team rather than its past.

"When we took over this thing 10 years ago we were selling dreams, and we continued to sell dreams, because it's so hard to keep going," Phillips said. "It's so hard to keep going in this business, at this place, and you look not just at this place, every place."

Even in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, he still sees hope for the future. He likes the leadership of the upperclassmen in place, and likes the talent of the younger players who have been forced into action this season.

"I appreciate the guys that continued to buy the dreams that we were selling and the seniors did get a couple bowl games," Phillips said. "I really think that the young guys who haven't gone to bowl games will get to bowl games."

Sweat Could Sit
Freshman wide receiver Demarcus Sweat was not listed on the depth chart on Monday and could miss the rest of the season to focus on academics, Phillips said.

"I'm looking for the future of this program and also for the future of Demarcus Sweat," Phillips said. "At this point, we're looking at maybe letting him focus on his academics."

Sweat has just four receptions for 84 yards, but does have two touchdown catches. He has just one catch for four yards in the last seven games, but he is second on the team with 596 all purpose yards on the season. He has 25 kick returns for 512 yards on the year.

Injury Report
Redshirt freshman linebacker Jabari Johnson is day-to-day with a pulled hamstring. Senior defensive back Martavius Neloms is expected to return to practice on Tuesday following a hamstring injury and will be evaluated going forward.



 

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