Before Kentucky's weekly news conference on Monday, Joker Phillips had a surprise for junior defensive end Jacob Lewellen. The Louisville native was one of only 11 Bowl Subdivision players to be named to the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
Lewellen was honored for his "dedication and commitment to serving his community." He mentors freshman football players, reads to elementary school children and leads an on-campus Bible study program.
He also made mission trips during his spring break, made numerous visits to a 3-year-old cancer patient at Lexington's Hope Lodge and served in a leadership role in Athletes in Action. Also as a surprise, Lewellen's family was on hand for the announcement.
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Phillips said he was not surprised by Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's comments supporting him last Friday.
"I know that it's a surprise to many," Phillips said, "but Mitch and I have communicated it, and it was not a surprise to us. We feel like we are doing the right things, and we just want to go ahead and get started on doing what we are doing in these last six weeks. A lot of football to be played, and we are excited about playing it and excited about the statement that Mitch made."
Phillips was asked whether quarterback Morgan Newton needed the off week to regain some confidence?
"Everybody did," the coach said. "Not just (Morgan) — I mean, everybody did. Everybody needed that week off. Anybody that would go through that, the first six weeks we went through, and especially the way we went through them, would need a week off.
"You'd have to ask Morgan, did he need it; I don't know, but I think everybody did."
Finding the right direction
Phillips did some recruiting during last week's open week and was encouraged by what he heard on the road.
"As I went into schools, (I found) there's a lot of people with us," said the coach, who added that he did some soul-searching, as well, during the open week.
"You find out about yourself, too," he said. "I had to look into myself, and I understand, I'm ready for this job. I'm fine with that — the direction of the program. I think that we have all of the right things. We just have to get them headed in the right direction."
Phillips said that at this point in the season, he would not pull a player's redshirt "unless it was an emergency."
That would appear to put to rest any talk that true freshman quarterback/receiver Bookie Cobbins would be used this season in an attempt to spark an offense that ranks 118th nationally in total yards per game.
■ The Kentucky-Mississippi State game on Oct. 29 at Commonwealth Stadium has been set for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Fox Sports South.
■ Starting defensive end Collins Ukwu, who has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury, is doubtful for Saturday's game with Jacksonville State, Phillips said. Ukwu could return for the Mississippi State game.