Joker Phillips - Tennessee Week
said last week we're playing for an extra game. With that being
out of reach, I know we're playing for still a goal out there, and our
goal is to win our last game. We haven't won our last game since
2009 in the Liberty Bowl. And winning your last game does a lot
for you in the off‑season. Also, we haven't beat Tennessee in a
while. So I think that would fulfill another goal also.
But it's a really good Tennessee football team. If you look at
Tennessee's losses, they've lost to number 1, number 2, number 3,
number 13, number 14, and then number 16 Florida. So still a good
football team. Offensively, second in the league in
passing. They got their quarterback back, (Tyler) Bray.
Looked really sharp last week.
The rushing game, they play two tailbacks, (Tauren) Poole and Rajion
Neal, who's a slash guy for them, similar to the way we used Randall
(Cobb) last three years. He's a guy that plays Wildcat from the
quarterback position. He'll play wide receiver. He'll play
running back. Really good athlete, does a lot of things for them
Defensively, they've played 1 through 7 (in the SEC) in scoring
offense. So they've played some really good offenses in this
league. Austin Johnson leads them in tackles. That's four
interceptions. He's their middle linebacker. They're really
stout up front. Again, big challenge for us this week.
Q. re: Danny Trevathan
COACH PHILLIPS: Danny means a lot to this program, and most of
his production has come in the last two years. Watching the way
he went about his business has been special. The guy last week
was really probably the best game I've seen him play. Many would
say other games would be. He had 17 tackles. He's done that
before. But just how he was patient and calling at the right time.
A lot of times you watch this game, Danny couldn’t see the
runner. He just has the instinct and the knack to understand
that, if I stay on this side just long enough, the running back is
going to cut off the blocker to the other side, and he'd stay on that
side just long enough to let the back commit and then come out the
other side and make the play.
Just the way he just glides across the field, waits till the last
minute to strike. He's just amazing to watch. He alone
willed the defense to play the way they played Saturday. We
continue to tell them to come up to his level, and everyone on defense
that tried to play better than they were capable of. I think a
lot of that had to do with the way Danny Trevathan played.
He makes plays when needed. Caused fumbles, had sacks. I
think he caused two fumbles and had a big sack, three tackles for
loss. He's just that guy that can get everybody lined up, and
that's been real helpful for us.
Q. re: not being in Butkus Award finalists
COACH PHILLIPS: It would be hard for me to find 12 better
linebackers than Danny as far as production. He's playing in a
pretty good league, and the production that he has had the last two
years, if he matches his last couple of weeks, we're talking a guy that
could have over 150 tackles in this league in one season. That's
amazing within itself.
So I'm hard pressed to find 12 other guys that's better than him, in my
Q. re: status of Maxwell Smith
COACH PHILLIPS: We expect Max to go. The improvement that
he made from Saturday to Sunday and from Sunday to today, he's working
to get himself back. He has a shoulder sprain, and it's his
throwing shoulder, but he's working to try to get his range of motion
back. Again, it's a lot better than it was yesterday and a lot
better than it was Saturday.
If he can't go, Morgan will take some of the snaps.
Q. Is that a game day decision?
COACH PHILLIPS: It could go up to game day, just depending how
much ‑‑ how fast and how much Max improves between now and Thursday or
Reps? This guy takes reps in practice. What we've done in
the past, I've learned this from when we had Billy Jack Haskins, way
back in the day, that he couldn't do very much with his arm in the
sling the week of the game. Also, you can give him mental reps
back there. Somebody could be taking the snaps while he's making
the calls. Might try to do something like that just to get him
some mental reps and let him make all the calls and call the snap count
and those things we could possibly do. Those are things that
we've talked about. We like him taking snaps, but Morgan's got to take
some snaps also.
Morgan's health ‑‑ I think you asked that. Again, a lot
better. He could definitely protect himself. I'm not sure
how his throwing arm is. How far he can throw and how much he can
throw the football. He definitely can throw it a lot better than
he could this time last week.
Q. re: breaking the streak vs. Tennessee
COACH PHILLIPS: I'm not going to talk about the streak.
I'll talk about the goal of ours to win the last game. Our goal,
when we started off (the season is) to win our last game, is to be in a
bowl game to win our last game. How big would it have been last
year if we'd have won our last (game)? We'll talk about that goal
and the goal that's out there. The goal out there is to win our
last game. That's why it's important to us.
Q. re: how a win could affect recruiting
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, any time you win it helps in
recruiting. That's the name of the game. People think that
kids come for the glitz and the glitter. Kids come for the
wins. That's why you see teams like Boise ‑‑ kids go to Boise
because they win. That's the reason why kids go there.
And I think it's very helpful for us when we win. We're able to
Q. re: more on the game
COACH PHILLIPS: The thing it comes down to is who can run the
ball, who can protect the ball. Last year we didn't protect the
football. We had our opportunities. We let the ball get
away from us a couple times. In the end, it doesn't give you a
chance to win big games, especially when you're on the road. The
thing we have to do is take care of the football. We've got to
stop the run, and we've got to be able to run the ball and make plays
in the passing game.
Q. re: Are you treating it like a bowl game? You’re playing
the last game.
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah. That's the thing we talked about as
soon as the Georgia game was over is our guys did a really good job
getting ourselves mentally and physically ready to play in that game
when we had an extra game riding on it. We have to get ourselves
mentally and physically prepared to play when we're playing for our
personal pride. We're playing for these seniors that have given
so much for this program.
I'm sure the seniors are taking it as a Bowl game. It's the last
game that many of them will play, put on a uniform, period, will ever
play football. Again, it's not like basketball where I played
basketball till I was about 38 years old till I got the second knee
injury. It's not like baseball where you can play softball until
you're 400 pounds and can still hit the ball, hit it out, and you can
still play behind the plate. It's not like those games.
Many of these guys ‑‑ that's why it's so emotional for football players
when they play in their last game because you don't get to play it
again. This is it for a lot of those guys. For Danny and
some of the other guys (it’s not the last game), but it's it for a lot
of those guys. That's why it's so emotional when you know it's
your last game.
Q. re: trying to win the game for the seniors
COACH PHILLIPS: I think we need to win this for the program and
who's been representing this program better than these seniors?
It all goes hand in hand.
Q. Re: not going to a bowl game enables more recruiting time
COACH PHILLIPS: That is the positive. We'll be able to get
all seven guys out to start selling, selling the program, selling
opportunities. Give me an opportunity to get into some homes
early, before Christmas also.
Q. re: what enabled Tyler Bray to have success in the 2010 game
COACH PHILLIPS: We didn't make plays. We got pressure on
him, and he threw a few balls up. We had an opportunity to make
some plays, interceptions and stuff, but the thing we didn't do, we
didn't play the ball well. We've got to continue. He's a
lot better quarterback than he was last year, no doubt about that.
But if we do get pressure and one goes up in the air, we've got to make
a play on it, period. We had numerous opportunities last year to
make a play on some of the balls. We've got to continue to get
pressure on him. Their offensive line is really, really good, big
players. And they're young, sophomores and juniors. They
played every snap last year as freshmen and sophomores, and they are
playing really good for them right now.
One transfer, transfer from Notre Dame, is playing for them also at
Q. re: toughness of Maxwell Smith and how you can’t know the
toughness of a QB until he plays in a game
COACH PHILLIPS: Yeah, you can't know. You have no clue
who's willing or able to take those type of hits as a quarterback.
You talk about toughness, your quarterback has got to be one of the
toughest guys on your football team, there's no doubt about that.
Because when he gets hit, he's in awkward positions, and he's got to be
one that's not only mentally but physically tough also. Dick
(Gabriel) and I talked about this last week with my college roommate
Bill Ransdell. One of the things Bill Ransdell was, he's tough,
which made everyone else around him tough. That's what Max Smith
has proven is that he's a tough kid.