By LARRY VAUGHT
While he’s been impressed with the way all three sophomore quarterbacks have handled the competition for the starting spot, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has seen one downside to the continuing battle. Stoops confirmed Tuesday that Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith were the two top quarterbacks and that Patrick Towles likely would be redshirted.
“They’ve done a nice job of just kind of putting their head down and going to work. The only thing — and I’ve been hit with this question throughout camp — is that one guy and helping develop him as a leader,” said Stoops. “And I think that is the one negative to playing all three guys for as long as we did.
“So, but other than that, they’ve all just put their head down and done the best they could and had a great attitude. Whatever quarterback is in there, their teammates support him.”
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown is still hoping for “separation” between Whitlow and Smith before UK opens the season Aug. 31 against Western Kentucky in Nashville.
“Really, we’re just looking for production more than anything, guys that can lead the offense, manage it. We’re looking for somebody that’s not going to make a big negative play, that’s going to make all the routine plays,” Brown said after practice Wednesday. “And that’s what we talk about a lot, is being consistent and making routine plays. Routines plays that are stacked on top of each other.”
Brown said the coaches had “been tracking everything” the quarterbacks have done in practices and that Smith and Whitlow had numbers and productivity that were better than Towles.
Brown said all three, along with true freshman Reese Phillips, “have what we’re looking for as far as being good people, guys with character, those type of things” and that intangibles did not factor into the decision.
The UK offensive coordinator said quarterbacks have not been “live” in practice to avoid injuries.
“I think that’s always a fine line. You kind of, you go back and forth, but it always ends up like this. You just say, ‘Hey, the risk is not worth the reward, really,’” Brown said.
He also said it was too early to tell if Smith and Whitlow could get equal snaps against Western.
“Too far out to tell. I’m not avoiding the question. I just don’t know yet really,” Brown said.