With UK's No. 1 quarterback ailing, who's No. 2?

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 24, 2012 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

Maxwell Smith is still listed as day-to-day and the decision about Kentucky's backup quarterback still seems far from resolved.

The UK starter, who has thrown for 966 yards and eight touchdowns in three games this season, will not throw Tuesday and will be evaluated again on Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the Cats' game against No. 6 South Carolina on Saturday.

"He's a lot further along on Sunday than he was last Sunday, obviously," Coach Joker Phillips said of Smith, who bruised a joint in his throwing shoulder against Western Kentucky. "A lot of it had to do with us not playing him this week."

But without Smith, UK's passing game fell flat at Florida.

Senior Morgan Newton and true freshman Jalen Whitlow completed just eight of their 27 attempts (29.6 percent) for 60 yards. Newton threw three interceptions in the 38-0 loss, the Cats' first time being shut out since 2006.

"We expect the next guy to go in and get it done," Phillips said when asked about the loss showing how valuable Smith is. "We just didn't.

"Anytime you lose your starting quarterback, he's your starting quarterback for a reason. ... He's starting quarterback because he's your best quarterback."

But the performances on Saturday beg the question, who is UK's next best quarterback?

Phillips and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders both said that they thought Newton, who had previously started 18 games, provided the best opportunity for Kentucky because he knew the playbook so well.

"It didn't work out," Phillips said, adding that Newton "didn't play as well as we would have liked, but we still think that that was the right decision."

Whitlow has been prepping to be the No. 2 quarterback since the Louisville game on Sept. 2, but when Smith went down Phillips worried that Whitlow "wasn't ready, wasn't quite ready to go in in that type of environment."

And if the game had been at Commonwealth Stadium instead of The Swamp?, "Who knows," Phillips said. "Again, still, this is not just the environment. It's the team that you're playing against also. It's a really good football team defensively. So who knows?"

When asked directly who would start on Saturday in place of Smith, if necessary, Phillips said: I "don't know at this point, but probably Jalen. I don't know exactly if we go with Morgan or Jalen. But I think Jalen would probably deserve based on the way we performed Saturday. Again, we've gotta go through this week and see how everything works out."

When Phillips was asked if he was planning to change the way he preps the No. 2 quarterback, he said no.

"We've gotta get (Whitlow) all of the two reps and some of the one reps," Phillips said. "But we also have to get Max some of the reps. ... There's a lot of things that we still have to do with (Whitlow), in case he is the guy on Saturday."

Kentucky's head coach also was asked whether or not he planned to keep the red shirt on the team's other freshman quarterback Patrick Towles, who led state power Highlands to three state championships.

"I'm comfortable with where we're at, because I think we'll get Max back," Phillips said. "That's our feeling, that we'll get Max back.

"Again, we decided to allow Jalen to be our third, and we really think that Pat Towles will be a really good quarterback in time, and we just think that this is the best thing for him and for our program at this point."

Cats' kicking struggles?

Senior Craig McIntosh made all but two of his 14 field goal attempts last season, but has missed four in UK's first four games this season. Each of his tries have barely gone wide and none have been for less than 42 yards. His missed 54-yarder at Florida would have been a career long.

His coach said he still believes in the kicker out of Lexington Christian.

"We haven't lost confidence in him, and just me talking to him on Saturday after the game, he hasn't lost confidence," Phillips said. "He's ready and willing to go out there and kick. ... We have a lot of belief in him and he has a lot of belief in himself."

Injury report

Junior defensive tackle Mister Cobble, who was hospitalized on Friday with an infection in his joints, has been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. However, it is doubtful that he will be ready to play on Saturday.

"He feels a lot better, but again, for a few days he hasn't eaten anything," Phillips said. "Just have make sure he gets his strength back. ... We don't know exactly when he'll practice or if he'll practice this week."

■ Phillips listed the following players as "doubtful" for the South Carolina game: Cobble (infection), tight end Gabe Correll (hip flexor), safety Josh Forrest (thigh bruise) and tight end Jordan Aumiller (foot).

Listed as "questionable" were running back CoShik Williams (hip strain), right tackle Kevin Mitchell (ankle), quarterback Maxwell Smith (shoulder), safety Ashely Lowery (concussion-like symptoms) and cornerback Cartier Rice (thigh bruise).

Game time, TV info

Kentucky's game Saturday against South Carolina at 7 p.m. will be on ESPN2.

■ A 12:21 p.m. game time has been set for the Cats' matchup with Mississippi State on Oct. 6 and it will be shown on the SEC Network. It will be in direct conflict with Keeneland's fall meet, which opens on Oct. 5.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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