September 2, 2013

Smith gets nod as starting QB against Miami (Ohio)

Maxwell Smith has his chance.

After losing Kentucky's quarterback competition in fall camp primarily because of two bad scrimmages, the sophomore will start Kentucky's second game of the year against Miami (Ohio) in place of sophomore Jalen Whitlow, coach Mark Stoops confirmed Monday.

"We just feel like Max gives us the best opportunity this week," Stoops said at his weekly news conference.

Smith entered the opener against Western Kentucky in the fourth quarter for Whitlow and completed 8 of 13 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.

However, Stoops said the change was not an indictment of Whitlow, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 78 yards and ran for 81 more.

He said that both quarterbacks did some "good things" while also making some "critical errors" in that 35-26 loss.

"Just because we're naming Max, we're not putting that loss on Jalen whatsoever," Stoops said.

Stoops said he will treat the second game much like the first in terms of evaluating if and when to switch quarterbacks.

"If Max is going out there and rolling, things are going good, then we'll stay with Max," Stoops said.

Things could go well for Smith. The RedHawks gave up 287 passing yards and five touchdowns in their 52-14 loss at Marshall.

Even if they do, Stoops said Whitlow "deserves an opportunity to play" and wants to utilize him.

"We believe he can bring some diversity to our package and make some people prepare for some different things with his skill set," Stoops said. "So yes, we will always have him ready."

Wide receiver Demarco Robinson and running back Raymond Sanders were neutral on whether they preferred one quarterback to the other.

Sanders said Whitlow didn't play poorly and that he expects both Whitlow and Smith to play going forward.

"We practice with both quarterbacks all camp, all spring," Sanders said, "so whoever coach puts in there, that's who we have to be ready to follow and be ready to play for."

Robinson said that the stylistic differences between Whitlow and Smith matter, though, in terms of both the offense and the opposition.

"It'll be a little different," Robinson said of switching quarterbacks between games one and two. "Guys have to respect Jalen a lot more seeing as that he can run. But Max got a great arm. He can put the ball pretty much wherever he wants to. So they have to respect that about him, too."

Stoops also respected his leadership.

After the Western Kentucky loss, Smith said that he felt he needed to "step up" and be a leader for the team, regardless of his spot on the depth chart. Stoops said that's a quality he liked to see from a quarterback.

"And I thought he did a great job during the game when he was not playing," Stoops said. "I've said that all along that those (quarterbacks) have handled the situation very well. He did a great job, and we do need that kind of leadership, yes."

For now, Stoops, offensive coordinator Neal Brown and the rest of the coaching staff continue to explore their offensive identity. Stoops has heard the questions about whether Kentucky is an Air Raid team or a running team, but he said it ultimately comes down to playing whatever brand of football gives the Wildcats the best chance to win.

"Neal has full autonomy to do what he needs to do to move the ball," Stoops said. "I have tremendous trust and confidence in the whole offensive staff to find that balance, to do what we need to do to win this game and to build on our future."



 

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