UK football notes: Stoops says Towles open to idea of redshirting

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 20, 2013 

After a hastily called scrimmage on Tuesday, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops confirmed that the two quarterbacks competing for the starting job against Western Kentucky are Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow.

"We haven't made a decision on the starter yet," Stoops said at Commonwealth Stadium, just 11 days before the season opener in Nashville. "We have narrowed it to two and I think both of those guys will play in the first game; I know both of those guys will play in the first game. I don't know who's going to start."

He also doesn't know when he'll make a decision.

Stoops has met with third option Patrick Towles, whom he called "absolutely fantastic during the process."

The highly touted Kentucky Mr. Football from Highlands handled the decision well. "He fought. He wanted to win the starting job, but he's had a great attitude, and that's what I told him."

The head coach said Towles has "as much talent as any quarterback we have on campus, but it's just a matter of letting him grow into the situation a little bit. And he's open to the idea, if the opportunity presents itself, to redshirt."

Breaking the news to Towles wasn't difficult, Stoops said, because it was a fair process for all three quarterbacks involved: "I gave him every opportunity to win the job."

For their part, Smith and Whitlow led a turnover-free offense in Tuesday's scrimmage, an improvement from Saturday when the offense threw four interceptions.

"They did well," Stoops said of the two sophomores who are splitting most of the reps. "They did good. They had some ups and downs."

The wide receivers, who were criticized for lots of drops Saturday, bounced back Tuesday.

"They played much better today," Stoops said. "I can't think off the top of my head if we had any drops. Maybe a couple here or there, but I don't remember any of the top two groups dropping any balls."

Smith, a 6-foot-4, 218-pounder from Granada Hills, Calif., was the starter at the beginning of last season before a series of injuries sidelined him for good in the first series of the South Carolina game.

In 12 career games, including seven starts, Smith has completed 187 of 303 passes for 1,794 yards with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Last season, Smith completed 68.7 percent of his passes.

Whitlow, a 6-2, 220-pounder from Prattville, Ala., took over the offense last season after Smith went down, starting seven games and completing 87 of 161 passes for 801 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. But he's also a running threat, rushing for 206 yards and three scores.

On Media Day, Whitlow voiced displeasure at the idea of sharing the quarterback duties.

"I don't think there's room in no offense for more than one quarterback," Whitlow said on Aug. 5, the last time the media was allowed to talk to the quarterbacks. "I feel like a quarterback needs to get his rhythm. I think it screws up the team chemistry a little bit when you're playing multiple quarterbacks. Like last year, playing four quarterbacks, that was awful."

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

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