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Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown is starting to see “some separation” at quarterback and he says that means “some people are starting to play well.” However, Brown isn’t quite sure when he’ll officially name a starting quarterback for UK’s opening game against Western Kentucky Aug. 31 in Nashville.
“That’s going to be up to coach (Mark) Stoops. But I figure, why tell Western? Let them figure it out,” said Brown after Wednesday’s practice.
Why not? Certainly couldn’t hurt UK since Brown is working four quarterbacks constantly in practice and keeping new Western coach Bobby Petrinot guessing a few more days would only add more intrigue to the start of the Stoops Era.
Sophomore Jalen Whitlow is the quarterback who seems to have created the most media and fan buzz, especially after his play at Fan Day and 50-yard scoring run in practice Tuesday.
Brown agrees with Stoops that Whitlow is too valuable a playmaker not to be on the field if he’s not the starting quarterback.
“He’s going to play at some point. If he wins the job, he wins the job, plays all the time, but if he doesn’t then he’s going to play some. He’s a good runner. People have to account for him,” Brown said. “Not to get too complex, but they’ve got to account one, sometimes two people for him on the backside of runs, which creates space. That’s what you want: space in the running game.”
Sophomore quarterbacks Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles are not the same running threat even though Towles was a productive high school runner.
Brown noted that Troy had a running quarterback when he was there in 2006 and 2007 as receivers coach and Tony Franklin was the offensive coordinator.
“We had a guy that almost threw for 3,000, rushed for I think — you all will have to look back at the stats — but I want to say in the 600 to 800 range. He was a dual-threat guy,” Brown said. “So that’s not something that’s out of my realm or anything. I feel comfortable doing that.
“We’ve been practicing a lot of his stuff in the spring and through preseason. But he’s a guy that has playmaking ability, that they can do things with the ball. Now, for him to win the job, he’s got to be an efficient passer and those type of things too. But his running ability is definitely a plus.”
The UK offensive coordinator wants a quarterback who can get UK into the end zone, especially when the Wildcats get inside the 20-yard line.
“The last, definitely the last two years at Tech, we’ve been really good in the red zone. That’s something we spend a lot of time teaching, a lot of time practicing,” Brown said. “The quarterbacks understand our No. 1 goal down there is to get points. You got to take care of the ball to get points. Obviously we want to score touchdowns, but the No. 1 objective is to score points.”
Brown did admit that one part of practice — the unusually cool August weather — has been the best part of preseason camp.
“I’ve been used to about 120 (degrees) and a hair dryer the last three years (at Texas Tech). Lubbock, Texas, is about 110 with a 20-mile per hour wind. Dry heat. The wind blew, it was like a hair dryer,” Brown laughed and said.