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Mark Stoops

By LARRY VAUGHT

University of Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops certainly backs the NCAA’s new rule allowing colleges to provide unlimited meals and snacks for athletes as something that is long overdue. It’s the same stance Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has had.

“We demand an awful lot from these guys. These guys work extremely hard. You know, we work them out in the morning, they got practices, study halls,” said Stoops after Wednesday’s practice. “So they’re quite busy and work their tails off for us. And they do need the nutrition and they need the meals. You guys have heard me say that before. I’m all for whatever we can give to these players. I don’t have all the answers, but I support whatever we can do to make their lives a little bit more comfortable.”

While the rule, which still faces one more vote to become official, won’t have a dramatic impact on every Division I athlete, Stoops said there are many who struggle financially even on scholarship and are pulled various ways to use what money they have.

“I definitely think there’s times when those guys struggle. There’s individual cases. That’s what makes it very difficult for coaches,” Stoops said. “I mean, we’re all human and want the best for these kids. And there are definitely some times when kids go through some tough situations.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize, for all the time we’ve been in this, you can see players that feel such an obligation to send their money home. So their little baby brother or sister or mother isn’t starving, too. There’s lots of situations that make it very tough for these kids. It needs to be handled individually. We can’t just lump them all together.”

That’s why Stoops was so pleased to see the NCAA council making this move to help athletes.

“It definitely has a drastic effect. We’re working through that. I believe there’s got to be one more vote to clear. So we’ll work through that with Mitch (Barnhart) and our administration. But it should definitely benefit these players. I think all the details still need to be worked out.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — Jalen Whitlow made the best decision for himself to transfer to another school so he could continue to play quarterback, but he probably also did Kentucky a favor with his choice after being asked to move to receiver.

Whether it was his fault or not — and former coach Joker Phillips and current coach Mark Stoops have said repeatedly that it was  not — Kentucky was just not very good offensively when Whitlow played. The Cats were a combined 4-20 the last two seasons and while many noted how well Whitlow could throw and run in practice, he normally had trouble completing passes in games.

In Neal Brown’s offense, efficiency is the key word. Fans want big plays; Brown wants first downs and accurate throws.

Whitlow was not even a full-time quarterback in high school, but from the day he got to UK he was determined that he would play quarterback, and only quarterback. I still remember at the 2012 media day if he could envision himself being the next Randall Cobb, a high school quarterback who made the move to receiver at UK and is now in the NFL, and he quickly and politely told me he was a quarterback.

But he was not the quarterback to run Brown’s offense — and UK fans were never going to buy into him leading an “Air Raid” offense when in-state favorites Drew Barker and Patrick Towles, both prolific high school passers, and redshirt freshman Reese Phiillips, a much more accurate passer, were potential starting quarterbacks.

“We’re narrowing it down. So we’re making progress. We like where we’re at. We’re improving. We’re getting it narrowed down. It’s just like Jalen, last night, we made that decision with Jalen. I talked to him yesterday. He made that decision last night. I told you today. The other guys, we’re working our way through it. It’s not a big secret, we’re just working through it,” coach Mark Stoops said Wednesday when asked if Whitlow’s transfer meant Brown had picked a starter.

Stoops said it best when he noted that both he and Brown felt “Jalen’s best skill set” for Kentucky was at receiver. That obviously means the two coaches have seen enough of Barker, a true freshmen, along with Phillips and Towles to believe at least one, if not more, would be ahead of Whitlow at quarterback when the season starts.

“As far as the other three quarterbacks that are competing right now, we’re working through that situation. It’s fluid,” Brown said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve told you, and it’s going to be the same stance. You all can ask questions about it, but basically is we’re working through it. We want to make a quicker decision than we did last year, but all three guys, we’re mixing up the reps. They’re doing some good things, they’re doing some things that aren’t so good. As soon as we make a decision, just like today, you all will get notified.”

Brown admitted Saturday’s scrimmage, which was not open to the public, played a role in the decision to ask Whitlow, a versatile athlete, to switch positions.

“There’s more weight that goes into the scrimmages, but this decision wasn’t based just on Saturday. It was a year’s worth of work and I think Saturday was eight practices (into spring ball). So Saturday, the other guys probably did some better things, but it wasn’t just based off one afternoon,” Brown said.

Remember, Brown and Stoops had last spring and all last season to watch Whitlow and Maxwell Smith, who is out this spring rehabbing from shoulder surgery, to play quarterback. Most Kentucky fans were convinced neither could be a winning SEC quarterback. That’s why going into spring drills that Barker, Towles or Phillips figured to have a terrific chance to become the starter — and now one will be.

“You have a past performance. And I will say this as well: Jalen made strides. He was better this spring than he was in the fall, but the other three guys who are competing are better, too. And maybe they made bigger strides, OK? But this wasn’t premeditated, this was something as we went through the nine practices, we made a decision on, it was clear,” Brown said.

What about Whitlow being the most mobile?

You always try to tailor your offense and your plays to the skill set of your players. With him (Whitlow) in there, obviously there’s a few more options. But ultimately we want to throw the football,” Stoops said

Throw the football? That’s not Whitlow’s strength and that’s why he was not the right for UK or Brown.

“We’re always going to fit around our personnel. I don’t think the offense that we ran last year is ideally what we want to do, but I thought it gave us the best chance to win,” Brown said. “We can fit around his skill set. It came down to consistently making throws. That’s what it came down to.  He made really good throws, but not on a consistent as a basis as he needed to.

“This is not a negative on Jalen, OK? The other three guys are performing well. I feel good about where we’re at the quarterback position, now we’ve got to go do it with the lights on, but Saturday in the scrimmage or game atmosphere, that was the best that any quarterbacks have looked since I’ve been here for a calendar year.”

Which is why Whitlow is now headed for another school and UK is guaranteed to have a new starting quarterback next season.

Click on the photo of Mark Stoops to watch a video of him talking about Jalen Whitlow's transfer.

Click on the photo of Mark Stoops to watch a video of him talking about Jalen Whitlow’s transfer.

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — Rather than move to wide receiver as he was asked to do by coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown, quarterback Jalen Whitlow has decided to transfer.

He started seven games as a true freshman n 2012 and started eight games last year in Stoops’ first season when UK went 2-10, the same record in had in 2012. He rushed for 663 yards and nine scores in two seasons and threw for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“I’m never surprised. I know Jalen was disappointed. I was hopeful that he would give it a try, but I understand where he’s coming from,” said Brown after Wednesday’s practice.  “He’s played quarterback most of his life. He feels like he is (one), so I understand and I’ll support him.”

Whitlow will finish the semester before transferring and having two years of eligibility remaining. Stoops said it would be between him and Whitlow what transfer restrictions, if any, are placed on the player.

“I appreciate the University of Kentucky and what the coaching staff and administration have done for me,” Whitlow said in a statement released by UK since he was not available to the media. “I also thank the community and the fan support I have received here.  I wish the coaches and my teammates the best of luck.”

Stoops talked to Whitlow twice Tuesday about where UK was with the quarterback battle that includes sophomore Patrick Towles, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips and true freshman Drew Barker.

“He’s worked very hard for a long time, through high school and through college here, to help this university and be the best quarterback he can be. So I wish him the best of luck,” Stoops said. “We were in a situation where, once we told him where we’re working it out with quarterback, and asked him to play another position (and) if he’d be open to that, he decided that it’d be in his best interest to go somewhere else and play QB. That’s where his heart is. That’s what he wants to do. I understand that.”

Stoops said he had not asked Whitlow to change positions before discussing a possible move to receiver with him Tuesday.

“We’ve given him every opportunity to win the starting job. He deserved that right. He was in there. As you know, he played some good football for us at times last year,” Stoops said. “I’ve said this over and over again, it’s not all about the quarterback position. We needed to get better across the board. If Jalen was coming back here next year and being the quarterback and playing for us, we’d be a whole lot better than we were last year, just because the whole team should look better. It’s not just on him.”

Brown said he was “disappointed” Whitlow was leaving and called him a “great kid” on the team.

“Love the kid, appreciate everything he’s done for the program. I want to make sure that we understand that our lack of success last year, he only played a minor role in that,” Brown said. “We didn’t do enough as coaches and at other positions groups — I want to put that out there too, I want to make sure we’re clear on that.

“Respect his decision, understand, but again, disappointed. We had a couple different conversations yesterday. We made the suggestion about moving positions, and he wants to be a quarterback, which we definitely understand.”

Stoops said he knew moving to receiver would be a hard change for Whitlow.

“When you’re bundled up at the quarterback position, it’s a different position. Again, I don’t look at it like he’s throwing in the towel on us. I wish he was here,” Stoops said. “I wanted him to stay here and play for Kentucky in some position. But he wants to play quarterback, so we understand that.

“It’s hard, as you know. It’s hard to get four and five guys reps. Listen: I want to move on. I want there to be a clear-cut winner or a starter, or at least one and two, so we can start narrowing down reps. But one thing that I can be sure (of) is that I feel very fair that I gave Jalen a great shot to win that job.”

Both Stoops and Brown said the talk with Whitlow was not easy on anyone.

“It was tough. I have a lot of respect for Jalen. He’s a good kid. Worked extremely hard. He’s talented, and he does have the skill set to run the football, and throw it at times,” Stoops said. “He’s maybe not as consistent as we’d like to be in the pass game. But he’s a very good quarterback, and it is tough to have that conversation. I appreciate the work that he did.”

Brown said coaches know they have to make hard decisions as part of their job, but that doesn’t make it easier.

“It’s never fun. It’s not something I enjoy. It’s really one of the worst aspects. What I try to do … and what I did with Jalen … I told him I care about him, which I do. I want him to do what he thinks is best for him in regard to our team. But I also wanted to be up front and honest with him and I knew there would be a decision he had to make,” Brown said.

“I was hoping he’d make the decision to stay, but I do understand. And I appreciate his contributions. I really do. Last year was a tough year. It wouldn’t have mattered who played quarterback; it was going to be a difficult, difficult season. He weathered some things, some adversity, so I’m proud of him for that. But it is: it’s a difficult thing, for sure.”

uk football helmetBy LARRY VAUGHT

The first day of spring practice, Kentucky’s offensive and defensive linemen had a few skirmishes. While head coach Mark Stoops can’t condone that, he would like to see more spunk in the line play for UK to have a chance to make a move in the SEC.

“We can’t have it interfering with practice all the time and getting very sloppy. I think they were proud of the work that they’ve done in the offseason. They feel like they’ve got some muscles on them now, so they want to throw it around a little bit, so we’ll get it cleaned up,” Stoops said.

So will the offensive line be more physical this year?

“I certainly hope so. We work that way and guys are bigger and stronger. Again, we’re a work in progress there. It’s not like overnight we can just go out there and manhandle people in the SEC. There’s a lot of teams that are big and strong. But I anticipate us being better, yes,” Stoops said.

 

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Jalen Whitlow (2) runs in for a touchdown in the first quarter against Alabama State. (Clay Jackson photo)

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Jalen Whitlow (2) runs in for a touchdown in the first quarter against Alabama State. (Clay Jackson photo)

Note: The following is a statement passed out to the press following Wednesday’s football practice:

Lexington, Ky. – Quarterback Jalen Whitlow has decided to transfer from the university of Kentucky, Coach Mark Stoops confirmed Wednesday.

“We respect Jalen and his decision as we want the best for him,” Stoops said. “I thank Jalen for his contributions to the team during his time at Kentucky. I want everyone to understand how hard he haas worked and the effort he has given since our staff has been here.”

Whitlow, a native of Montgomery, Ala., came to UK in 2012 and started seven games as a true freshman. He completed 54 percent of his passes for 801 yards and five touchdowns. he also rushed for 206 net yards and three TDs.

In 2013, Stoops’ first season as head coach, Whitlow started eight games. He completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 1,033 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 457 yards and six TDs.

“I appreciate the University of Kentucky and what the coaching staff and administration have done for me,” Whitlow said. “I also thank the community and the fan support I have received here. I wish the coaches and my teammates the best of luck.”

Whitlow will finish the semester at UK before transferring. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Alvin "Bud" Dupree interviewed his Defensive End partner Za'Darius Smith at UK media days last year.

Alvin “Bud” Dupree interviewed his Defensive End partner Za’Darius Smith at UK media days last year.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Coach Mark Stoops had some interesting things to say about defensive end Bud Dupree after Monday’s practice:

Question: How much will defensive end Bud Dupree’s development and leadership impact the defense?
Stoops: “Bud’s a real key part. I’ve said it over and over. But he is. He’s a good football player with good instincts. He’s really done a nice job with the leadership role. It’s key for him to have a great year and to continue to lead us.”

Question: Have Dupree and Za’Darius Smith reached a point where they sort of max out improving personally and end up doing more mentoring of younger guys?
Stoops: “Oh, no, they definitely can get better – and are. With Bud, it’s his versatility and making sure he’s getting enough quality reps to continue to progress with his hand in the dirt as a great D-lineman and then being able to get him some snaps on his feet and doing some other things and being versatile with Bud. So that’s a matter of just keep on getting reps there.

“With Z, you can never get enough reps and you’re always getting better. Again, that’s why Pete Jenkins is in here. It’s something we take great pride in. It’s something we did at Florida State. The better you play up front, the better you’re going to be. It starts up there. I think Coach Brumbaugh does a great job of developing those guys and we’ve got a long way to go with some young guys, but that’s key for us.”

Click on the photo above to view a video of coach Mark Stoops talking after this morning's practice.

Click on the photo above to view a video of coach Mark Stoops talking after this morning’s practice.

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach Mark Stoops liked that his team came back from what he thought was an impressive scrimmage on Saturday with a “pretty good” practice again Monday.

“We’re starting to move forward, get a little bit better in each phase of the game. Encouraged, again, we’ve got a long way to go. Got some guys banged up and bruised like you’d expect in the middle of spring ball, but nothing major and I feel like we’re heading in the right direction. Again, just got to keep on keeping the foot on the gas and keep on getting better each day,” said Stoops.

Stoops brought in Pete Jenkins, 72, and his 41 years of coaching experience to observe practice as he has done before. Stoops called him an “expert” on defensive line play and says feedback from him has helped him realize that UK is moving forward.

“Sometimes when you see it every day, you want to make those steps faster, but he knows, and he told me, it’s a much different team, a better looking team (than last year). It looks like we’re more physical and all that,” Stoops said after Monday’s practice. “So it’s good to hear that from somebody that spends a lot of time going to a lot of spring practices and has been around the block.

“Like I said, he’s really an expert on D-line play and it’s good to have him around, so that meant something to me. I’ve said that to you: I feel like we’re getting better, we’re getting there. We spent a long winter this year; we went into spring ball late so we could really have some time to lift and put on some weight and get stronger, and I feel like that’s paying off.”

Stoops said there was “more quality football” being played on both sides of the ball in Saturday’s scrimmage even if there was still plenty to correct.

He said all four quarterbacks again did “some good things” as well as missed some plays.

“I’m still impressed. Patrick (Towles) is improving, he’s throwing some balls we all know he has the arm talent to execute. I feel like Drew (Barker) is doing some good things for a young guy out there. Again, that’s not dismissing the other two guys (Jalen Whitlow and Reese Phillips). They did some good things as well,” Stoops said.

Here’s more of what Stoops had to say after practice>

Question: How did the defensive tackles look in Saturday’s scrimmage?
Stoops: “We’re battling; we’re getting better. We’ve got a few young guys in there with Regie (Meant) getting better. Mike Douglas is doing a good job and you know Melvin (Lewis) is getting better. You know, we’re improving.”

Question: What does he look for defensively when he is watching film?
Stoops: “Well, you could be (trails off) It always comes down to fundamentals. If we’re good enough to play and handle guys, then obviously you’re going to have a lot more success. I feel like fundamentally we’re getting better. We need to continue to grow. We need to be able to cover people, you know? But it’s always like that. The better you are, the more simple you can play and execute things and give people things by missed assignments and things like that. We’re getting much better. Things are slowing down for some of our guys.”

Question: What does he like about  junior college cornerback A.J. Stamps and is he getting his hands on balls in practice?
Stoops: “He’s got good instincts. He’s got good size and good athletic ability. He seems to pick things up fairly quick, which is a good thing because it’s a hard position. Things go very fast; things change all the time. There’s different offenses, different plays. Offenses setting you up and all those things. So you have to have some instincts to play that position and so I’m excited about him and his progress.”

Question: How is defensive back Marcus McWilson doing?
Stoops: “Marcus, yeah, he does some good things, he’s got some good ability. We need to continue to lean on him to play with a greater sense of urgency, a greater passion for the game. He’s got the ability. It’s our job to keep on getting it out of him.”

Question: Has he made any John Calipari-like tweaks to his team?
Stoops: “No, I don’t,  … in football, with us, there’s so many moving parts in football that we change things drill by drill and look at what we’re doing schematically, offensively and defensively. We’ll be in there for hours upon hours today making adjustments and just seeing what we can do and what’s best for our team.”

Question: How is new assistant Craig Naivar meshing with the staff and players?
Stoops: “He’s doing a good job. He’s a high-energy guy, a lot like coach Peve (Bradley Dale Peveto), so it’s good. We’re not missing a beat there. We love what we’re doing and, again, he’s high-energy and gives us a lot of experience with being a coordinator for a long time.”

Question: What’s different for him and has his comfort zone expanded after a year on the job?
Stoops: “It really is. Just everything, I think putting it all together and your time demands and being stretched in so many different ways, it’s still difficult at times to find enough hours in the day to do the things you have to do with that. But much more comfortable. Obviously offensively and defensively, where we’re heading and what we’re doing, that comfort level is there. I think just as a program, all the things we’re doing within the program to help develop these players, I feel much better just where we’re headed.”

UK football coach Mark Stoops addresses the media during Wednesday's Football Signing Day. (Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved)

Mark Stoops photo by Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Head coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown both liked what they saw from freshman receivers T.V. Williams and Thaddeus Snodgrass, both January enrollees, during Saturday’s scrimmage.

Stoops: “The young guys did some good things. Thaddeus (Snodgrass) had a chance to make a real big play, didn’t come down with it. T.V. (Williams) made a nice play where he caught the ball, bounced off some people, made a big play for the offense, which was good.”

Brown: “T.V. (Williams) had some highs and some lows. He had a drop that would’ve been a big play, and then he had a long touchdown reception. So he showed some signs. I think Thaddeus Snodgrass is starting to come along. It’s a lot on a receiver initially. It really is. He’s getting a lot of reps because we’ve got some guys that are banged up. Mikel Horton (running back), he did some good things. I think he got tired probably. It’s a big difference (from high school).”

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach Mark Stoops certainly liked Saturday’s scrimmage and the improved efficiency and energy he saw from his team on both sides of the ball.

“We got some good work in. Definitely really the best we’ve played this spring, for sure. Look a whole lot better. Again, not where we need to be. We’re a little bit nicked up at wide receiver, but overall I thought we really did some good things,” Stoops said. “No significant injuries. Good physical scrimmage, got a lot of plays in. Felt like the quarterbacks did some good things. So, overall very pleased with the effort.”

He said the scrimmage, which ended a bit earlier than scheduled, was a “lot better” than the first one this spring.

“We probably weren’t quite ready. That’s maybe why I was a little frustrated: looked a little bit sloppy,” he said. “But it was good to get back out there today. We had a couple days to meet and to get set and kind of just went out there today, basically got a warm-up, did a little seven-on-seven and did some special teams and rolled right into the scrimmage. So that was kind of good just to get into that mode, put the ball down and play.”

He said there was no noticeable edge for the offense or defense.

“I thought both. I really did. That’s why it’s hard for me, because if one side does well I’m disappointed in the other,” the UK coach said. “But I really did feel like both sides had some moments today. I thought we were a little bit more stout in some of the run game with the ones on defense. Had some good stops, but the offense bounced back, had some good drives, threw the ball well, caught it better. We’re still a little thin — I don’t want to get in too much to the injury situation, nothing major, but we’re still a little bit thin at wide receiver. But they still managed to throw it, catch it, move the ball.”

Stoops said it was nice to have more to work with now than he did a year ago during his first spring practice at UK.

“We feel better. At times, you get out here during practices and everything, we’re running a lot of teams and doing a lot of reps, so you’re getting ones, twos and threes,” he said. “Already in the spring, you’re already a little bit thin if you don’t have your whole group here. So it’s sloppy at times, but overall you put it together, get out there on the scrimmage and get going. We’re definitely further along. We just operate our offense and our defense better at this point. We’re getting there, getting better. Need to get everybody healthy obviously. We’re not deep enough to have a bunch of guys out.”

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown was just as happy as Stoops.

“Had a good day. Probably our best in a scrimmage or a game-type atmosphere — the best, just from the mechanics of the game, the best we’ve executed,” Brown said. “What I mean by that is playing at the tempo that we want to; we’re getting closer.

“We’re not there yet, but we’re a lot closer than we ever were at any point last year. We didn’t have a single turnover, very few penalties. So all those types of things, a big-time improvement from where we were last spring and last fall.”

Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot liked that his unit “played with some better energy” than in the first scrimmage.

“I think that we got some things to build on. Still got a long ways to go, but we got number of practices left to get better,” Eliot said. “I think that on defense we tried to just be vanilla. We weren’t trying to out-scheme anybody and we just wanted to find out who could make plays and who could play hard and so we got something to build on.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — Running back JoJo Kemp is never one to hide his emotions or enthusiasm and he didn’t try when asked how about freshman quarterback Drew Barker fared in Kentucky’s scrimmage Saturday.

“Drew looked real good. He was out there making plays. He stood out,” said Kemp.

No statistics were given for the scrimmage that was closed to fans and media members, but the consensus seemed to be that even though all four quarterbacks — Barker, Patrick Towles, Jalen Whitlow and Reese Phillips — performed well, Barker had the best day.

“Pretty good, pretty good. Did some good things,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said about Barker.

He said “completions and touchdown passes” stood out the most to him about Barker’s play.

‘You have to look at the tape and see who it was against, what happened, a few things, but overall pleased. Pleased with how he handled himself, how he operated the good offense. Had some good throws. I also think the other guys had their moments as well,” Stoops said. “Again, Patrick— I’ve talked about several times this spring — saw him make a couple very nice throws that I haven’t seen for awhile on our practice field. Really some good, strong throws in some tough spots. So that was encouraging to see. And again, Reese and Jalen  had their moments as well.”

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown also liked what Barker did and the maturity he showed in his first outing at Commonwealth Stadium.

“I think the biggest thing about Drew is, if you would’ve came out and just watched us today, you wouldn’t have know he was a high school senior. And that’s the most impressive thing to me. Because the mechanics of the game and not being in awe of being in that stadium for the first time and playing, that was what I was most impressed with,” Brown said. “You wouldn’t have know that here he is, went to the (high school) prom two weeks ago or gonna graduate in June, you know what I mean? You wouldn’t have known that, which is a credit to him.”

Brown said other freshmen who enrolled in January midway of their senior year in high school made plays, but also got tired during the scrimmage. But not Barker.

“That’s why I was saying it’s such a credit to Drew, because you could’ve watched some of those other guys and thought, ‘OK, they’re young; they’re making some mistakes.’ Well, Drew, you would’ve thought he was here for a year, he’d been here for a while,” Brown said.

Stoops and Brown both insisted it was still a four-player battle at quarterback with no clear separation yet for the job that Whitlow had last year.

” I know that we didn’t make as many big mistakes,” Brown said. “All four of them threw the ball better. Towles made some throws in live situations that he hadn’t made here, so I was pleased with that. They all got about equal reps and everybody got a chance with the ones and the twos.”

Brown said Towles, who played as a freshman in 2012 and then redshirted last year, made throws the staff had only seen him make before in non-game situations.

“Like when he comes out here and throws routes on air and we don’t have defenses, and y’all watched him throw the other day … he’s making throws that he’s always made on air, but he made those against the defense being out there,” Brown said. “I know he’s got really good arm talent; he always has. And you’ll see — even last year, I would see snippets of that when we were throwing on air, OK? Or maybe we were in a seven-on-seven drill. Well, today I saw some of those throws in a game atmosphere, which was encouraging.”

Brown doesn’t want the quarterback competition to go until close to the season opener like it did last year between Whitlow, Maxwell Smith and Towles.

“I want it to get narrowed down. The thing I’m pleased about is they’re all much, much better. We’re better. Whoever the quarterback is going to be, they’re going to be better than we played last year,” Brown said. “So that’s pleasing. But I do want to get it narrowed down quicker. When we do that, I don’t know. I’m not going to put any false deadlines.”

Does he want that done by the end of spring practice in two weeks?

“I don’t know. You’re putting words in my mouth now.  I’m not saying yes or no. We haven’t had that discussion. I’d love for one of them to take it and run, but nobody’s done that necessarily yet,” Brown said.

Kemp said he would hate to pick a starting quarterback based on what he’s seen.

“All the quarterbacks did good. They all looked good,” he said. “They all stood out. To me, they all looked great. Don’t count none of them out. They are focused, going through reads. They are all talented and trying to get the starting job and do what is needed to do that.”

Linebacker Khalid Henderson has the same view after going against all four quarterbacks Saturday.

“Each guy is making plays. They are all doing good,” Henderson said. “Barker is showing good leadership and making a good effort. I see a real good competition.”

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