Mark Story: QB injuries cloud future for Smith, Towles and UK

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistOctober 8, 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)

Quick hitters from the veep debate "pre-game" hype:

21. UK QB musical chairs. Of all the bad breaks that have befallen Kentucky quarterbacks this season, the most serious for the long-term future is that injuries might have removed the "spacing" in eligibility between Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles.

20. Original plan made sense. Smith, the sophomore from California, would have spent this season as the Kentucky starter. Towles, the home-state hero from Fort Thomas Highlands, would have redshirted. That would have put two years between the QBs starting in 2013 (Smith a junior, Towles a redshirt freshman).

19. Up in flames. The ankle injury Smith suffered against South Carolina that likely knocked him out for the season sank that. It meant UK took the redshirt off Towles. Then Towles went out in his first game against Mississippi State and suffered a high-ankle sprain and is now sidelined, too.

18. Three QBs in same class? If Smith gets a medical redshirt and if Towles returns to play this year, it means that next year Smith, Towles and the current UK starter Jalen Whitlow will all be sophomores in 2013.

17. Joker Phillips' take. Asked two Mondays ago about all three QBs ending up in the same class, the UK head coach said "it will work itself out. It always does."

16. Medical redshirt for Towles? Phillips said Towles is "week-to-week." If he is physically unable to return this season, Kentucky could seek a medical redshirt for him as well.

15. Durability issues for Smith? Complicating long-range planning by UK for its quarterback position is Smith's growing injury history. The Granada Hills, Calif., product has started six games in his Kentucky career — and suffered three different injuries that knocked him out of starts.

14. Two shoulder injuries and an ankle. Smith suffered a shoulder injury last season against Georgia that cost him the start against Tennessee the following week. This season, he reinjured the same shoulder against Western Kentucky and missed the Florida game. Then when he returned against South Carolina, Smith made it two plays before being lost.

13. The future? As impressive as Smith was throwing the football (averaging 322 yards a game) in his first three starts this season, can UK realistically build its offensive attack around him given his difficulty staying on the field?

12. Party like it's 1979. In terms of a revolving door under center, UK in 2012 should remind old-school Kentucky fans of Fran Curci's 1979 Cats.

11. Four different starters. In '79, UK used multiple quarterbacks in seven of 11 games. Six games into the season, four different QBs had started.

10. Can you name them? Extra credit for anyone who can name the four Kentucky starting QBs from '79?

9. The answers: Senior Mike Shutt started two games, then was sidelined by injury. True freshman Randy Jenkins started one and got knocked out by injury. Walk-on Juan Portela made four starts, as did true freshman Terry Henry.

8. Nearly a bowl. Amazingly for a team with so much flux at QB, the '79 Cats beat Florida in Gainesville and would have gone to the Hall of Fame Bowl — had the 5-5 Wildcats beaten Tennessee in the regular-season finale. Alas, the Vols won 20-17 on a last-minute field goal.

7. A UK Ring of Honor Replacement. I recently asked readers to suggest how Kentucky could better honor its football retired jersey honorees since the Commonwealth Stadium ribbon boards have covered over the old Ring of Honor around the top of the stadium's lower bowl.

6. What UK has now. After having the names displayed on flags at the top of the stadium last year, this season Kentucky has adhesive pennants on the beams in the concourse honoring the 45 former players and coaches who used to be in the Ring.

5. Brint Curtis. Suggests UK follow what the New York Yankees have done and hang actual pennants honoring past greats in the concourse.

4. Randy Lemaster. Envisions adding a panel to each side of the Commonwealth end-zone scoreboards that would bear the players' names.

3. Dave Seaford. Wants UK to figure out a way to create a new Ring of Honor at the top of Commonwealth.

2. Richard Ronan. Figures Kentucky could produce life-sized statues to honor all the past UK greats and create a "monument walk."

1. Sam Ball. One of the names that used to be in the Ring of Honor, the former star tackle still misses seeing his name on the old Ring of Honor. But he is now philosophical about the new adhesive pennants.

"I'm just glad, after all these years, somebody still remembers me some way," said the 1965 first-team All-American.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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