In his playing days, Joker Phillips was a (good) wide receiver at Kentucky. Before he became UK's head coach, he spent most of his career coaching receivers. So his critique of UK's wide-receiver play in its 14-3 season-opening win over Western Kentucky University carries ample street cred.
Said Phillips: "It was embarrassing watching them."
Senior Matt Roark and juniors Gene McCaskill and La'Rod King were Kentucky's starters Thursday night in Nashville. Sophomore Brian Adams also played extensively. The quartet combined for six receptions. King and Roark both had multiple drops, though King did haul in a game-clinching 31-yard touchdown pass from Morgan Newton in the fourth quarter.
"We weren't a very physical wide receiving group as far as blocking, either," Phillips said Monday at his weekly news conference. "If you are going to act like a pass catcher, you better catch the damn ball. If you're not a pass catcher, you better give the running backs a chance (with your blocking) to make one guy miss."
Phillips said true freshman Demarco Robinson and juniors E.J. Fields and Aaron Boyd will be given opportunities this week to earn playing time. Robinson, a smallish (5-foot-10, 159 pounds) Georgia product, "catches the ball," Phillips said. "He is really an explosive kid."
Both Fields and Boyd were highly regarded in-state recruits when they signed with UK in 2008. So far neither has made much of an impact at Kentucky. Fields is still looking for his first college reception in what has been an injury-plagued UK career (he has been a valuable special teams player). The Frankfort product was serving a one-game suspension for the WKU game.
Boyd, a four-star recruit from Henry Clay, caught five passes as a true freshman in 2008, redshirted in 2009, then caught no passes last season. The knock on him has been a lack of foot speed that makes it hard for him to get open. But "the guy does catch the football," Phillips said of Boyd.
Along with Fields, Phillips says senior safety Mychal Bailey will also play Saturday against Central Michigan after sitting out a suspension against WKU. Defensive tackle Mark Crawford will remain suspended for the CMU game, Phillips said.
Defensive end Collins Ukwu, who sat out the second half of the Western game with a chest bruise, did not practice Monday but is expected to play against Central Michigan.
Starting center Matt Smith, who did not play against Western Kentucky because of an undisclosed injury, tried to practice Monday but did not make it through the workout. Right offensive tackle Billy Joe Murphy is "day-to-day," Phillips said, after spraining an MCL against WKU.
Wideout Adams did not practice Monday with a sprained ankle. Tight end Tyler Robinson, who did not play against Western because of injury, practiced Monday.
McDermott, Guy honored
Senior defensive tackle Luke McDermott was named SEC co-Defensive Lineman of the Week after recording four tackles, including a quarterback sack, against WKU. Winston Guy was named Defensive Back Performer of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards.