UK football notes: Big plays by freshmen encouraging to Joker Phillips

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 30, 2012 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

Kentucky's pleas for patience got louder as the team tumbled to 1-4 overall and winless in the Southeastern Conference after Saturday night's 38-17 loss to No. 6 South Carolina at Commonwealth Stadium.

Some of the Cats' biggest plays of the night were made by young players, many by true freshmen.

"Jalen Whitlow looked nice out there and A.J. Legree," freshman cornerback Cody Quinn said. "We've got a whole bunch of freshmen and sophomores, so we can take a positive from that. We have to keep working and keep getting better every week. We're going to be good, just keep working and keep progressing."

With 12 true freshman having played so far this season, UK is one of the nation's youngest teams. Of UK's 80 scholarship players, 55 are freshmen or sophomores.

It wasn't just the freshman quarterback Whitlow who made plays.

There was Daron Blaylock blocking a punt, the big 20-yard pass from Whitlow to Legree. Sophomore Miles Simpson led UK with 12 tackles. Sophomore Alvin "Bud" Dupree had nine tackles and 1.5 sacks.

"A lot of young guys out there making plays," Coach Joker Phillips said, specifically mentioning Legree and Whitlow.

"Those are true freshmen," Phillips said. "I'm talking true freshmen. One was playing at Prattville (High School in A labama) last year, and the other one playing at Fort White (High School in Florida), playing against one of the top defenses in the country. I think it was really encouraging to see those young guys making plays for us."

Injuries mount

Two plays into the game, quarterback Maxwell Smith was flat on his back clutching his ankle. He left the game and spent most of the remainder of it on the sideline balancing himself on crutches.

X-rays on his left ankle came back negative, Phillips said. But it will be re-evaluated in the morning.

It also appeared that Whitlow tweaked his ankle late in the game, but Phillips said he didn't go to the trainers, so it should be fine.

Other injuries include safety Dakotah Tyler (knee), offensive lineman Zach West (shoulder) and running back Raymond Sanders (knee).

The knee injury provided a late scare for Sanders, who has had surgery on both of his knees since arriving at UK, but the junior said he doesn't think this one (on his left knee) is that serious. He took Whitlow's helmet to the side of his knee.

"It should be fine; it doesn't feel like the old injuries; it's probably a bruise," he said. "We'll get it treated and get ready to go."

Quarterback question marks

If the ankle injury sidelines Maxwell Smith (who also is dealing with pain from a separated shoulder against Western Kentucky) for an extended period of time, Phillips said UK probably would put in more options to suit the freshman quarterback's swift feet.

"Might have to put more quarterback run game in," Phillips said. "We've put a little in. We may have to add a little more in for him because he can make plays with his feet."

The question also was asked about burning the redshirt season for freshman Patrick Towles of Highlands if Smith is going to sit for a considerable amount of time.

"Again, we won't do it unless we're going to play him," Phillips said. "At this point in time, there is no sense in taking it off of him if he's not going to play a significant amount."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com,

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