published Friday, July 18th, 2014

Phillips 'in thick' of Kentucky QB race

Reese Phillips plays in the 2013 Blue/White spring game at Commonwealth Stadium in this April 13, 2013, file photo.
Reese Phillips plays in the 2013 Blue/White spring game at Commonwealth Stadium in this April 13, 2013, file photo.

HOOVER, Ala. — Kentucky's quarterback situation is no nearer a solution than it was when the Wildcats' spring practice ended a couple of months ago, and that means Reese Phillips remains very much in the mix.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky's second-year head coach, said Thursday as he wrapped up SEC media days that he's "still unsettled" at quarterback, and Phillips, a former star at Signal Mountain High School, is part of what will be a four-man race that resumes when Kentucky starts preseason camp.

"I think Reese is a really good player," junior right tackle Jordan Swindle said. "I'm good friends with him. He's a fun guy to be around, and I think he works hard. I think he's a really accurate passer, and I think he could be the quarterback. All four of them could be the quarterback. It just depends on what the coaches think."

Throughout the offseason, Stoops has praised the 6-foot-2, 222-pound Phillips, who redshirted last season after enrolling in January, and he did so again Thursday.

"I've been very pleased with Reese," he said. "He was a guy throughout spring that may have been the most consistent. He was a guy that just did a nice job of managing the offense and staying away from negative plays.

"I'm very impressed with Reese. He's got a good chance to win the battle. We'll see where it goes, but he's right in the thick of things."

As a Signal senior in 2012, Phillips, a three-star recruit ranked 25th in Tennessee in the 2013 class by Rivals.com, completed 172 of 274 passes for 2,274 yards and 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions, following up a strong junior season during which he tossed 21 touchdown passes with only four picks.

His competition, though, is stiff.

Third-year sophomore Patrick Towles played in five games as a true freshman before redshirting last season, and true freshman Drew Barker, who enrolled in January, was a four-star recruit and the top-ranked player in Kentucky according to multiple recruiting services.

Maxwell Smith, who threw for 1,276 yards and nine scores with one interception in a timeshare with Jalen Whitlow last season, rejoins the race after missing spring practice while he recovered from shoulder surgery.

The Wildcats were 2-10 last season and went winless in the SEC in part because they were 13th in the league in both scoring and total offense.

"Because there's a competition between the four of them," Swindle said, "it helps them become better players, because if one of them were to slack off, that person probably knows that 'I'm probably not going to be able to get as good as I could be.' The fact that they all have to keep getting better every day or they're going to be behind, it kind of makes them all better."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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