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Who is Kentucky freshman Reese Phillips? Next-in-line quarterback is largely unknown

Kentucky quarterback Reese Phillips, seen here in the spring game in April, is the emergency backup if Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith are hurt. (Photo by Jon Hale)

Kentucky quarterback Reese Phillips, seen here in the spring game in April, is the emergency backup if Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith are hurt. (Photo by Jon Hale)


Who is Reese Phillips? There are a few ways to answer that question. He’s a University of Kentucky student, a freshman. He likes to dance, he was in beta club in high school, and his grandfather and great uncle played football at Georgia, all according to UK’s media guide.
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Those are all good and fine, but those aren’t exactly the things readers of this publication want to know when presented the question, “Who is Reese Phillips?” He’s the Kentucky quarterback who, if all systems fail with Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith, would be the next-in-line guy to take snaps. He’s Gerald Ford in 1973. Things happen, and nobody’s invincible.


That’s where the Watergate analogy ends, really. The danger of losing Whitlow and Smith is because of the threat of injury, which has been a seemingly constant companion to both intermittently this season, and not malice and scandal. Let’s finish that analogy here.


But Whitlow sprained an ankle on Oct. 12, and he suffered a sprained AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder Oct. 24 against Mississippi State. He said Wednesday his ankle is mostly back to normal, though it’s still a bit sore, and his shoulder is more sore, but he doesn’t throw with that shoulder so he’ll play through the pain.


Smith hurt his throwing shoulder against Louisville on Sept. 21, aggravating an injury from preseason that, during training camp, led to his coaches instructing him something to the effect of, “When you get hit, make sure you don’t land on your shoulder.” He also has a history of ankle injuries, including the one that ended his season in 2012 after four games.


So again: Who is Reese Phillips?


Phillips is a 6-2 freshman, a pocket-passing quarterback who committed to UK under Joker Phillips and stayed on board when Phillips was fired and Mark Stoops was hired in November. He’s from Signal Mountain, Tenn.—shouldn’t all people from Signal Mountain be quarterbacks?—and he enrolled at UK a semester early in January, so he was on campus and eligible to participate in spring practice.


He was 10-of-12 in the spring game, finishing with 75 yards and a touchdown.


The plan as it originated was to redshirt both Phillips and sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles. And both Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown have said in a perfect world, both will keep their redshirts on. This world is far from perfect though, especially as it pertains to Kentucky’s quarterbacks staying healthy.


So in the last few weeks, Phillips has been getting more and more reps in practice with the second string; Phillips and Smith are splitting the backup reps and Whitlow is getting all of the starter’s reps, Brown said Wednesday.


“He’s good. He’s good and comfortable,” Stoops said of Phillips. “Seems like he’s got one of those personalities where he doesn’t get too worked up about anything. Of course, that’s easier said than done on the practice field, right? With quarterbacks, you never really know until you get them out there in game situations and see how it goes and all that. So we’ll see, but I like the way he’s gone about his business.”


Kentucky does not make freshmen who have not played in games available to the media, so an interview request for Phillips was declined.


“Ideally, I think we’d like to keep the red shirt on him this late, but I think we’re mentally getting him ready and we’re getting him enough reps where if he needs to play, he’ll be ready,” Brown said.

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