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By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun
Max Smith doesn’t mind starting over. The Kentucky quarterback is counting on his experience to be a factor and ultimately give him an edge in a three-way battle with teammates Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles for the team’s starting job when fall camp begins this week.
“I have a lot of playing experience,” said Smith, who has started seven games and played in 12 contests in his career with the Wildcats. “We’re pretty much on the same playing field with the new offense. We’ve all had the same amount of repetitions and (it comes down to) whoever performs the best.”
Although Smith has more experience than his two counterparts, he added that it won’t be the only factor the coaching staff will be looking for when it comes to leading offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s offense.
“The experience helps, but there are a lot more new things,” he said Monday during UK’s Media Day. “There are a lot of new drops and a lot of new terminology is different. But it’s all the same. Everybody in the country pretty much runs the same plays. How do we do it and what steps do we take? It’s not been that difficult. Every day coach Brown drills us on what we’re supposed to do and we keep working on it.”
The sophomore quarterback said all three players “are leaders” but other tangible assets will be required.
“It’s going to be whoever performs,” Smith said. “Who is throwing the most completions and who is moving the offense fast. We all three have different skill sets and whoever coach thinks is the best will get the job.”
He added that his accuracy as a “passer” will be another plus once workouts begin.
“Being accurate, that’s the biggest thing,” he said.
Smith will be given the opportunity to lead Kentucky’s offense to open the Mark Stoops era. Smith emerged as the team’s starter last fall, but suffered a season-ending ankle injury five games into the season. Still hobbling from the injury, Smith failed in spring practice to overly impress Kentucky’s coaching staff, which has promised to give all three players a fair shake to emerge as the starting signal-caller when the Wildcats open the season on Aug. 31 against Western Kentucky at LP Field in Nashville.
As for his injury, Smith, who received a medical redshirt and has three seasons of eligibility remaining, enters the season on a healthy note. He is looking forward to fall camp and the quarterback competition, a battle that could last into the final week of preseason practice.
“I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, probably the fastest I’ve ever been and the healthiest I’ve ever been,” he said.
He added that all three players have a better grip on Brown’s offense and fall camp will be smoother than spring workouts.
“The first practice should be better than our spring game,” Smith said. “I feel like it will be. We’ve come a long way as a team.”
Once the quarterback battle ends, Smith said all three players will remain friends, a bond that began during the summer break.
“Our lockers are right next to each other,” Smith said. “We’re always talking to each other and we’re always hanging out. We did all of our drills together this summer and we were around each other. We all get along great. It’s not a problem at all.
“It’s not going to be a (quarterback) controversy at all. We all just know it’s a competition and that’s what we want.”