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By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops officially ended the speculation about UK’s top two quarterbacks going into the season by admitting after Tuesday’s scrimmage that either Jalen Whitlow or Maxwell Smith would start Aug. 31 when the Wildcats open the season in Nashville against Western Kentucky.

“No, we haven’t made a decision on the starter yet. We have narrowed it to two and I think both of those guys will play in the first game. I know both of those guys will play in the first game. I don’t know who’s going to start,” said Stoops. “They had some ups and downs (in the scrimmage). It wasn’t just a sieve like it was last spring at times. They had some good drives and some bad drives.”

Stoops said the third sophomore quarterback, Patrick Towles, had been “absolutely fantastic during the process” to determine a No. 1 quarterback.

“He fought. He wanted to win the starting job, but he’s had a great attitude, and that’s what I told him. Patrick has been very good, has continued to work extremely hard. He’s got as much talent as any quarterback we have on campus, but it’s just a matter of letting him grow into the situation a little bit,” Stoops said. “And he’s open to the idea, if the opportunity presents itself, to redshirt.

“ And if we go through the year and neither one of the quarterbacks are getting it done, then we may open it back up. But he’s going to prepare to be the third quarterback with the opportunity to redshirt if it presents itself.”

Stoops said Towles, the former Kentucky Mr. Football from Highlands, had been “mature, handled it well” when he told him the news.

“It wasn’t an easy conversation because I know how much he cares and how much he put into it. He handled it the right way. And I know it was easy for me because I was very fair in the whole process. I gave him every opportunity to win the job,” Stoops said.

The coach knows either Whitlow or Smith, who both started last year, will be disappointed if they are not No. 1.

“If they’re a competitor, they’ll be disappointed. But I expect both of them to be ready to go because they’re going to play and it’ll still be an open competition, really, to see who wins it,” Stoops, who would not speculate on whether both quarterbacks could play against Western, said.

The coach was pleased that the receivers, who dropped numerous balls in Saturday’s scrimmage, played better as did the offense overall.

“I can’t think off the top of my head if we had any drops. Maybe a couple here or there, but I don’t remember any of the top two groups dropping any balls,” Stoops said. “I wanted the guys mentally prepared to come out here and play well with some enthusiasm. And again, that’s why we went through the whole procedure again, so there’s no wondering how we’re going to do pregame and all those things and just kind of get into a routine. I liked the energy. I liked the energy.”

Stoops also addressed a number of personnel issues:

— He said he was worried about the “aggravating ankle injuries” that both defensive end Za’Darius Smith and Cody Quinn have that have kept them out of practice. Center Zach Myers also is not back practicing because of an ankle injury.

— Junior college defensive lineman Melvin Lewis is now practicing after being cleared last week academically. “He looks good. He’s obviously out of shape, hasn’t been here all summer. But we’re pleased with what we see from him so far, and he does have a redshirt year available to him as well. So we’ll see how he progresses,” Stoops said.

— Freshman receiver Ryan Timmons of Franklin County is “doing good” and Stoops said he had a “very good chance” to be a starter against Western.

— No decision has been made yet on the status of junior safety Ashely Lowery, who was charged with DUI after a summer automobile accident. “No update on Ashely’s situation,” Stoops said.

7 Responses to Stoops confirms Smith and Whitlow top two quarterbacks; redshirt year likely for Towles

  • Larry Pup says:

    I figured it would be Jalen or Max at QB. I was surprised there was no word about Reese Phillips. Towles should probably red shirt. Sure hope Za’Darius and Cody are ready on the 31st. It seems like this happens every year at UK with key people out before a game is even played.

  • Ira says:

    I’m wondering if Maxwell Smith gets the start and Whitlow comes in as the ‘Wildcat’ QB and get the chains moving again if drives start bogging down.

  • Andy says:

    There is still 11 days left to determine a starter. The coaches could still change their minds on who will open. Its hard to tell if they want to make Bobby P guessing till game day. Hopefully one of them will stand out soon before game time.

  • RJ says:

    I hate the word assume. But at this point one must assume that Reese Philips has already accepted the “red shirt”. I thought he looked as good as any of the four!!

  • RJ says:

    I recall last year when the coaches were evaluating Towles: ” to be a good passer, you first have to complete passes”. I’m not at all sure if this was a fair statement but it’s a good place to start for Towles during his red shirt season. If he uses the time wisely, he can come out numero uno!

  • millcat says:

    I thought all along they should start Max and use Jalen in the “wildcobb” to put your best players on the field KY cannot afford to have any player sitting on the sideline that can contribute Jalen W could make plays all over the field my 2 cents

  • MikeF says:

    If you think about it, selecting two at this at this point and giving them equal reps is very smart. I know that Smith has worked very hard on his conditioning to preclude a season ending injury this year, however, his history has not been ignored by the Coaching staff, if he was named the starter and gets 95% of the practice reps and goes down again in the 3rd game, Whitlow would be ahead of where he was last year, but, still not as sharp with only 5% of the reps. The redeeming factor here is the much more “learnable” offense this staff employs. This Coaching staff impresses me with every decision. What an exciting time for our football program!

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