Who will start at QB? No one at UK is saying

By Brian Rickerd Published:

LEXINGTON — Notes and quotes from UK football media day Friday:
Who will start at quarterback for the Kentucky Wildcats when they open the season Aug. 30 at home against UT-Martin?
The crafty media phrased that question to UK coach Mark Stoops four different ways at the team’s media day Friday before Stoops showed any impatience.
“I’m not going to put a timeline on it,” Stoops said. “It would be reckless just to make a decision because I want to make a decision and not have to answer these questions. I’m not going to do it. It’s not fair to the players, and it’s not fair to our team. It’s not fair for our program.”
The candidates are true freshman Drew Barker, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips, sophomore Patrick Towles and a grizzled Maxwell Smith, a junior.
Smith appears behind the eight ball at the moment because his surgically repaired shoulder isn’t 100 percent, though he has more college experience than the other candidates.
UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown was even more direct about the QB battle. Brown followed Stoops to the interview room and opened with this:
“I know I’m going to get a lot of questions about the quarterbacks,” Brown said. “You can ask, but I probably won’t have much to say about those guys, other than you can ask about them individually. I’m about to the point where I’m tired of answering the question, and a lot of you are tired of asking it.
“So, with that,” Brown said with a smile, “we’ll open up questions.”
Somewhere between the sixth and seventh time they were asked about the quarterback position, both Stoops and Brown indicated they hope to know a lot more within a week.
Brown has said, repeatedly (is there any other way when it comes to this topic?), that he has amped up the pressure on all the quarterbacks, as much as you can in practice, to see how they respond.
“We’re throwing our quarterbacks into a lot of different situations, and we hope within the next five or seven days, one of those guys will stand out,” Brown said.
Stoops emphatically concluded talk of the subject this way:
“I’m confident we will play better at that position, regardless of who’s in there,” he said.
Offensive improvement
It’s also true that the Wildcats will be considerably improved around the quarterback, thanks both to the experience gained from last year’s wide receivers and running backs and a bigger offensive line, along with a second influx of three and four-star recruits.
Some of the older wideouts like Ryan Timmons, Javess Blue, Demarco Robinson and Rashad Cunningham (just to name a few) should take a step forward, and freshmen like Dorian Baker, Garrett Johnson, Blake Bone and Thaddeus Snodgrass have wowed the coaches in practice.
And Kentucky looks to be deeper at running back than at any point I can recall with “veterans” Jojo Kemp, Braylon Heard, and Josh Clemons, along with freshman Mikel Horton and Stanley “Boom” Williams.
“I think we’re going to be much better,” Timmons said of Kentucky’s offense. “We played a lot of first-year guys last season, and they’re much improved. And the freshmen we have coming in have tons of talent. They’re really good.”
Stoops and staff say the team also looks better on the offensive line, thanks to a good mix of veterans and guys who were redshirted a year ago.
Elam making some noise
Kentucky’s biggest get on the recruiting trail, John Hardin defensive tackle Matt Elam, is drawing raves almost to the point of awe through summer workouts into fall practice.
The 6-foot-7 Elam is “down” to 375 pounds, from a high of 395, but what seems to have surprised some is how athletic he is for that size.
“Imagine a big train going fast down the track,” UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said of Elam. “When you see someone that big, you just don’t expect to see an explosion and someone so quick off the ball. And he has that.”
“Guys like that don’t come around all the time,” Stoops said. “He’s got a bright future.”

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