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Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown on QB play: “It’s a deal where we gotta get better”

Neal Brown

Neal Brown


Without wanting to go into great detail about Kentucky’s quarterback play, coach Mark Stoops will admit it was “not a perfect situation” this season with both Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith battling injuries and inconsistencies.

“It’s an issue.  I think each guy did some good things at times and some things that weren’t so good, and again, that’s our whole team, though. That’s not just on those guys. We have to play better around them,” said Stoops after his team’s 2-10 finish in his first year as head coach. “So we can’t just put that all on the quarterbacks. But I don’t think it’s a perfect situation and I don’t think anybody really went out and just said, this is mine, which you’re waiting to see.”

Smith played in nine games and completed 105 of 183 passes for 1,276 yards and nine scores with just one interception. Whitlow played in 12 games and was 98 of 159 passing for 1,035 yards and five scores with five interceptions. Whitlow also rushed for 457 yards, the third best mark on the team, and a team-high six scores.

“Nobody expects to go 2-10 in consecutive seasons, but I can sense that something about this program is going to change. Coach Stoops, they’re getting their recruits in, implementing their system,” Smith said. “It’s tough. A lot of guys struggle with a new system, just little, tiny mistakes. I think that’s our biggest thing is mentally, there are a lot of mental mistakes out there. We know how to practice now, we get a winter under our belt, we get another spring, and I think we’re going to have a big turnaround.”

Smith called it a “disappointing” season.

“We all felt good going in. We knew we had a tough schedule like I said, so it was disappointing. When you go 2-10 it’s obviously disappointing,” Smith said.

Smith and Whitlow, both sophomores, will be pressed in spring practice by redshirt freshman Reese Phillips and sophomore Patrick Towles, who redshirted this season also. Plus, Conner High School quarterback Drew Barker will arrive at UK in January and will participate in spring drills.

Smith has been hampered by a sore shoulder that he opted not to have surgery on after the 2012 season. Stoops still believes he “could be healthy enough” to compete for playing time in 2014.

“I hope he can and I think he needs to go in and we need to look at that shoulder again. This was (a) different (injury this year).  (Trainer) Jim Madaleno and our doctors tell me this injury right now is a little different now than other problems he’s had,” Stoops said.

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said it was a “patchwork” season offensively.

“It’s a deal where we’ve gotta get better. I’ve gotta do a better job coaching those guys. They’ve gotta do a better job playing consistently,” Brown said. “I think it was encouraging that Maxwell played as good as he did (against Tennessee). He’s gotta connect on those deep balls.

“Unfortunately, we’ve got quite a bit of time around the holiday season that I’ll have to sit around and contemplate and get this thing fixed. The next two weeks are going to be recruiting; our guys are going to get to work. The guys that are here are going to get to work and we’re going to get to work recruiting for two weeks. And then we’ve got a big, long break where it’s a dead period where I can sit around and get a lot of our problems fixed.”

Brown said there’s no doubt UK has “to play better” at quarterback in 2014 no matter who the starter is.

“I think we have to play more consistently there. I think that’s understood,” Brown said.

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  1. Rod

    It was an extremely frustrating season for coaches, fans and especially the players. Thanks to all the kids who gave their all to this years team especially the seniors. Believe these coaches learned this year, realize the quarterback position has to improve, a lot, and that holding on to their recruits is a must. Hope to see improvement next year and year three should be the telling year. Let’s support these coaches and entire program, I believe we saw improvement and glimmers of hope.

  2. Larry Pup

    UK’s offense will be much better next year. Coach Brown will get “em” going I do believe. He needs a better OL. He needs a QB who can wing it, (Phillips). He needs some WR’s and TE’s who can catch the football in space, and in a crowd. I look for that to happen in 2014. UK has a stable full of good RB’s to go with the above, and good ones projected to arrive. Kemp and Mobley will be chomping at the bit. UK’s defense will also grow up in 2014 and have nasty all over them. They will cause BBN to forget all about 2013. That is my prediction.

  3. Andy

    We do need a QB that can take the job convincingly. This season was a gone season and now its time for the red shirts to pick it up. IMO, hopefully Philips or Towles will seize the moment and also be a leader. Philips is a pass first QB, which greatly helps in Neals offense and the playbook will be opened up more.

    It is interesting that all 5 Qbs are returning, which gives us depth at that position along with depth at the running back position.

    Hopefully UK can flip that OL kid Jones from Ohio State to improve the OL and provide much depth there. Bring in ELam and the class will be much improved moving forward.

  4. Little Baron

    This season got off on the wrong FOOT by using a QB who uses his FEET more than his arm. Next season must start with a passing QB, and STAY with a passing QB, or we can all sit back, relax and expect more of the same. If we do not use arms at QB next year, we will struggle to beat the 2 win season.

    Hopefully, we will have more lineman and coaches willing to open up the offense with real QBs and let Whitlow run a few WildCats when timely, but not every few plays. Whitlow needs to be developed into a player at a position where he can help the team.

  5. Ira

    Want to say thanks to the team and the coaches. Not the season anyone wanted by any means, but never saw quit in them.

    Next year like a poster or 2 above has said we need a QB to step up. Hopefully Phillips has been groomed for it next year. I like that he had moved up to NO 2 on the depth chart and was getting snaps with the regular offense not the scout team. Gave them familiarization with Phillips, cadence, release, the OL his tendency on scrambling etc. all of it helps.

    Next year also we need to see that fresh infusion of RS on the OL at guards as well. Maybe Scharlman likes playing the 5 same guys all the time on the OL, most OL coaches do, but with proper depth, when someone isn’t blocking now he can pull someone out and get a better person in to do the job.

    I look forward to seeing who our new QB will be this spring and if we have some new faces on the OL as well. We get our Center bulked up, 270 isn’t big enough, he is getting manhandled by the 300+ Pound DT’s that are shading over him. Heck some of the LB’ers now days almost weight as much as him. 240-250.

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