Reese Phillips, the former Signal Mountain quarterback, said Saturday that he has options but there was nothing in the works when he asked for his release from the University of Kentucky.
"I officially got my release at 7:30 on Christmas Eve night. I'm happy I asked for it — relieved," he said Saturday afternoon visiting friends. "I took a leap of faith, I guess you could say."
When he finally got a return call from Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and made his request, Phillips indicated that Stoops all but hung up on him.
"He wasn't real happy, but I have gotten tons of support from my teammates and Kentucky fans. They understand why I asked for my release," he said.
Since he tweeted Thursday night that he had gotten his release, several possible relocation sites have emerged. Among them is Austin Peay, which just hired former Boyd-Buchanan quarterback Will Healy, most recently receivers coach and passing game coordinator at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Phillips intends to look strictly at FCS schools, and other current possibilities include Coastal Carolina, Eastern Washington, James Madison, McNeese State and Montana.
By transferring to an FCS school, Phillips will be eligible immediately. The question is whether he'll be a redshirt junior or a redshirt sophomore. He was originally assured by Stoops, he said, that he would receive a medical redshirt after suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon last spring. But he said Stoops told him during this past season that the medical redshirt wasn't likely.
"He said (in the second conversation) he didn't remember talking to me about any medical redshirt," Phillips recalled.
Phillips had some ups and numerous downs during his time in Lexington. In addition to the ankle injury, he has basically had three offensive coordinators, including Randy Sanders, who signed him; Neal Brown, now the head coach at Troy University; and most recently Shannon Dawson, who spent just this past season under Stoops before being relieved of his duties.
"If Coach Dawson was still at Kentucky, I'd still be there, too," Phillips said. "I had thought about transferring last spring and then got hurt, but I have nothing but good things to say about Coach Dawson. He's the best and he's the reason that I have decided I want to become a coach when my playing days are over. He's a friend and the type coach I want to be."
If Dawson's firing wasn't the last straw for Phillips, his decision became clear when Stoops announced that rising sophomore Drew Barker will be the Wildcats' starting quarterback for the 2016 season. That was a primary reason that Patrick Towles, who started 10 games for the Wildcats in 2015, decided to transfer to Boston College.
"That wasn't really fair to Pat or to me. Drew is a friend, but speaking honestly he didn't do anything special those last two games and Stoops still gave him the job. That wasn't fair," Phillips said. "I'm not the type to make excuses, but I never got beat out. If I get beat out wherever I go from here, I'm man enough to admit that I got beat out."
Phillips hopes to have his immediate future settled within a week.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.