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By LARRY VAUGHT

With questions continuing to swirl about Kentucky’s quarterback situation, coach Mark Stoops knows what he would like to see happen against Alabama State Saturday night.

“I think in a perfect world we’d keep our quarterbacks healthy and whoever was in there would be running the offense efficiently,” said Stoops. “And in this case, Jalen (Whitlow) starting the game, it would be really nice to have him start a game and finish a game unless we decide to take him out for good reasons. So that would be nice to happen.”

If that happens, then Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown would not have to decide if former starter Maxwell Smith or true freshman Reese Phillips, who is scheduled to be redshirted, would go in if Whitlow was hurt or ineffective.

“If something happens early, then we got a decision to make,” Stoops said.

Brown said that Phillips is “looking good” in practice even though Whitlow has got all the first-team reps this week.

“We’ve gotten him a decent amount of work the last couple of weeks. Ideally, I think we’d like to keep the red shirt on him this late, but I think we’re mentally getting him ready and we’re getting him enough reps where if he needs to play, he’ll be ready,” Brown said. “Jalen will start the game and hopefully finish it and be healthy and all those type of things. And Maxwell (Smith) and Reese are splitting those two reps.”

Stoops said on the Southeastern Conference teleconference that he was “not ready” to say if Smith or Phillips would be the primary backup Saturday night.

“Right now, he (Smith) is our No. 2 on the depth chart, but we have been pushing a little bit with Reese and getting him ready and there’s a chance that he could see some action if Jalen was injured.

“Jalen should be ready. Like most SEC quarterbacks, a little banged up, a little bruised up and all that, but he should be healthy. The last game it was his ankle, and this week seems to be better, he’s a little dinged up on his shoulder, but he should be fine.”

Stoops knows it is important to have a valid backup plan at quarterback. Smith has battled a sore shoulder all season and Whitlow was challenged last week by Stoops to play with more toughness.

“There’s some big boys out there, very physical like we all know. It’s been troublesome to us. We were sorting through our quarterback situation most of the spring and most of the summer and into the fall here and then once we settled in, we felt like we were making some progress and really starting to click offensively with Jalen, then he goes down and gets injured and you go back to Max (Smith). You need to have some depth at that position,” Stoops said.

Stoops has seen signs that Whitlow has accepted the challenge of playing with more toughness.

“He’s beat up, but the deal is this late in the season, most people that are playing college football are beat up, regardless of positions and quarterback’s probably — their wear and tear through the week is a lot less — I always tell them they’ve got the easiest job Sunday through Friday and the hardest job on Saturdays,” Stoops said. “I think he’s accepted the challenge. He’s got a little bit of a sore ankle, a little bit of a sore shoulder, neither one of them anything major. But he’s been out here every day, hasn’t missed any time, so I think he has responded.”

Stoops admits the one unknown with Phillips is how he will actually perform in a collegiate game.

“He’s good and comfortable. Seems like he’s got one of those personalities where he doesn’t get too worked up about anything,” Stoops said. “Of course, that’s easier said than done on the practice field, right? With quarterbacks, you never really know until you get them out there in game situations and see how it goes and all that. So we’ll see, but I like the way he’s gone about his business.”

13 Responses to Stoops: Smith still No. 2 on QB depth chart, but Reese Phillips could play

  • Mike says:

    If Phillips is “looking good” as Stoops says then why in the world would he say Smith would be the backup. This total mishandling of the QB situation certainly will not improve Brownie’s stock with the public. These guys have passed the recruiting test but as coaches have not yet removed the training wheels. We certainly have the worse qb situation in the SEC and probably all of D1 as well.

    • Stephen says:

      Okay…I give…I think it’s now time, with 5 games to go in this totally lost season, to let Mike take over this team. It is finally obvious to me that he knows this game more than Stoops and his staff…and I see no reason for the players to be kept from the all-knowing football acumen that is Mike! Come on Mitch!!! Pull that trigger!!!

  • RJ says:

    Mike: Your frustration is totally understandable but look at it from a business point of view. You cannot demote someone for an unproven replacement. If so, and the replacement blew up in you face, you’re the one looking for a job. On the other hand, you rotate Smith in the game, replace him with Philips THEN if the kid strikes gold, you can then demote Smith and will not look like you don’t know what you are doing. And if the kid blows up, you look like a genius. Coaching is not a lot different than business with a couple $ million in salaries on the line. Sometimes you have to look past the “coach speak” to see what is really going on.

    Personally I detest this style of coaching IF this is really what is happening. It’s a shell game. Watch the little pea!!!!!!

  • RJ says:

    I wish I could go to this game Saturday. My grandson is getting married and my wife will not let me out of it. For those of you who have been married for 40 years, you know what I’m talking about. So, I guess my bother-in-law (lives in Lex) will have a good time this weekend because he will have my tickets!

    GO CATS!!!!

  • Mike says:

    RJ…..what you are saying is a valid statement but what is wrong with working with the unproven replacement earlier in the year. These coaches have to know that we weren’t going to get it done with 2 injured and unproven quarterbacks. Max is probably a great guy and playing to the best of his ability, but his ability isn’t there. He does not have a strong arm, accuracy, toughness, and good decision making. This 2 qb system has been a total disaster.

    • RJ says:

      While you and I would no problem thowing Philips in there and see how he fairs but to a coaching staff that has to consider other things, I can see how they would be reluctant. For example: (1.) Throwing Philips to the wolves and letting him fail is not a good way to build future confidence in a QB. That is what happened to Towles last year as you recall. Remember this kid is about 18 years old. When I was 18, I was stupid enough to volunteer to go across the pond and get shot at for 12 months. Nuf said about being smart at 18. (2.) Head coaching is as much about marketing as it is about he X’s and O’s. Stoops has to sell future recruits (and UK administration) on the fact that he knows what he is doing as a head coach. Reacting by knee jerk vs careful consideration as to the consequences of a big decision is just not good marketing. Remember, its all about the PLAN. (3.) Based on real game experience (remember Philips has never been in a game) Stoops probably does believe that Whitlow will be the most productive of the either Smith or Whitlow whether its running or passing. I take issue with that position but I’m not the head coach. Philips has no game history so he is an unknown at this point.

      I believe that while Stoops is playing the probability game (ie best chance of winning) I think he does not quite appreciate fan dissatifaction of the QB run offense, al la Morgan Newton and now Jalen Whitlow especially since the fans were PROMISED a more entertaining throwing offense.

      Lastly, we have the potential of maybe two more wins this season. I’m a planner by nature. Why not start planning for next season and get Philips “trained up” for next season but getting him into games now? Don’t be surprised if Stoops starts Whitlow then runs Smith into the game and quickly replace him with Philips. But if the game turns ugly from the outset, don’t be surprised to not see Philips as all.

  • Phillip Barker says:

    I really thought the qb position would be a strength this year…I’m ready to see if Reece can throw the ball.

  • Little Baron says:

    It really isn’t difficult to understand…

    Choice “A”
    2 injured QBs:
    – one whose injury affected his passing arm
    – one who has never had a passing arm

    Choice “B”
    2 healthy QBs:
    – both are passing QBs
    – both were “tied” wih the 2 injured QBs a week before the 1st game

    Ler’s see … Since we are 1-6, having won ONE game (against a minor-league team) when the 2 injured QBs were healthy…

    Remember… we are going to see the Air Raid this year!

    and the QB will be…

  • Mike says:

    Stephen
    Good to be scoring on you a little bit. You might be taking things a little too seriously. What part of the 1-6 season do you like?

  • Glenn Fohr says:

    Yes, it is a head scratcher when we play two injured quarterbacks with two healthy ones setting on the bench.???

  • Seymour says:

    Old Saw.

    Thebest player on a loosing team is always the backup QB. And I suppose that when you have only one win, the third string QB gets a lot of love.

    Anyone who thought that we would go to a bowl game this year must have a good source and I would like to know who it is.

    I guess it is time to start saying ‘just you wait until next year.’

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