Stoops switches QBs for Cats' home opener

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 2, 2013 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

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

    TV: ESPNU

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

After the loss to Western Kentucky, backup quarterback Maxwell Smith said he had been watching and waiting on the sideline for his number to be called.

His number officially was called on Monday when Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops announced that the sophomore will get the start in the Cats' home opener against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.

"We just feel like Max gives us the best opportunity this week," Stoops said. The RedHawks gave up five touchdowns and 287 passing yards in a 52-14 loss to Marshall in their opener.

Last season, Miami was 107th nationally in total defense, giving up 467.7 yards a game. It gave up 591 yards last week.

When asked if the RedHawks' struggles against the pass made Smith a natural starter, Stoops gave a round-about answer.

"It does," he said, before adding: "You know, the big thing, though, and we've talked about this before: Every week, you know and I know, we're going to do whatever it takes to win the game and prepare to win the game."

But Stoops was quick to say that moving Smith ahead of last week's starter, Jalen Whitlow, is not an indictment of the sophomore from Prattville, Ala.

"We're not putting that loss on Jalen whatsoever," Stoops said. "There's an awful lot of people that could do things better, starting with me."

Last week's plan to start Whitlow and leave the door open for Smith will be reversed this week. Whitlow deserves a chance to play, Stoops said.

"If Max is going out there and rolling, things are going good, then we'll stay with Max," Stoops said. "But yes, we want Jalen to play. We believe he can bring some diversity to our package and make some people prepare for some different things with his skill set. So yes, we will always have him ready."

The quarterbacks' fellow offensive players seemed fine with either Whitlow, a multiple threat who ran for 75 yards and a touchdown against Western Kentucky and threw for 78 more yards, or Smith.

"Whoever coach puts in there, that's who we have to be ready to follow and ready to play for," said senior Raymond Sanders, who ran for 98 yards Saturday. "Whoever coach puts on the field at quarterback, we have to do our job and make their job easier."

Smith, who played all but one snap of the fourth quarter and passed for 125 yards and a touchdown, said he needs to be a leader on offense, whether he starts or not.

"I think I need to be that guy," said Smith, who was the starter last season before being sidelined with an ankle injury. "I may not start next game, but I need to be that guy regardless."

Demarco Robinson, who had a 34-yard touchdown reception among his five grabs for 69 yards, said Smith was energetic when his number was called last week.

"As soon as they give him the go, he came over and got everybody in the offense, like, 'Let's go, y'all,'" Robinson said. "When he shows that confidence, it makes us have confidence in him."

The players like his energy and leadership.

"You'll never see him get his composure down," Robinson said. "If he does, it's easy for us to get him right back where he needs to be. I like that about him."

Injury updates

Sophomore Cody Quinn was listed as the No. 1 cornerback on last Monday's depth chart, but he didn't make the trip to Nashville. Quinn was still nursing an injured ankle from three weeks before.

This week, Quinn isn't listed as the starter or the backup at either corner spot. The starters are Nate Willis and Fred Tiller.

"We're trying to get him healthy," Stoops said of Quinn. "We put him back out there last week and we thought he was going to go and he had a minor setback. He's close again, but I don't know where he's at. So right now, he's not able to practice full go."

■ Backup long snapper Kyle Budde is out for the season with a knee injury that will require surgery, Stoops said.

■ Linebacker Avery Williamson had a small gash above his right eye at the Monday news conference. The senior said he took a cleat to the face during the WKU game and initially thought he broke his nose.

Depth chart updates

Last week, junior TraVaughn Paschal was listed at defensive end behind Za'Darius Smith, but this week he's been moved to the weakside linebacker spot ahead of Khalid Henderson.

"We just have to play him," Stoops said. "We have to get him on the field. I just feel like we have not been playing winning football at linebacker. We need to improve."

■ On last week's depth chart, Alex Montgomery was listed at receiver behind Demarco Robinson. This week, the freshman is listed at another receiver spot, behind Javess Blue.

Montgomery, who caught one pass for minus-1 yards, didn't play as much as UK coaches had planned.

"He was sick as a dog all of a sudden last week when we left," Stoops said. "He was very sick. So he came back (and) people worked extremely hard to get him on the field."

■ True freshman Ryan Timmons, who was listed as an "or" with Daryl Collins at one of the wide receiver spots, is now at the top spot with the sophomore behind him. Timmons had one catch for six yards and had one rushing attempt for 33 yards on Saturday.

■ Zach West must have won the battle for his starting spot last season at left guard. After sharing the spot with Teven Eatmon-Nared last week, he's listed No. 1 on the depth chart this week.

■ Despite missing an extra point and botching an onside kick on the next play, kicker Joe Mansour is still listed as the Cats' No. 1 kicker, ahead of freshman Austin MacGinnis.

Stoops was asked if he's worried about his senior kicker's confidence.

"I can't say that I'm not worried about it. I saw what you saw."


SATURDAY

Miami (Ohio) at Kentucky

When: Noon

Records: Miami (Ohio) 0-1; UK 0-1

TV: FS South

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

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