Stoops wants to settle on a QB, but to do so now would be 'reckless'

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 30, 2013 

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops, a former defensive coordinator, said facing off against offensive minds like Steve Spurrier's "gives you a little fix."

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  • Tennessee at Kentucky

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

    TV: ESPNU

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

Five weeks into the season and two weeks into a brutal four-game stretch against four straight top 25 opponents, Kentucky coaches would love to have a solitary starter at quarterback.

But that hasn't happened quite yet.

"With the quarterback situation we need to continue to evaluate that, both guys struggled at times Saturday, that had to do with a great Florida defense and us not executing," Coach Mark Stoops said on Monday as UK prepares to go to No. 13 South Carolina this weekend. "We will continue to look at that situation as we go forward."

UK thought it had its starter in Maxwell Smith after his strong performance against Miami (Ohio), but an injury the next week against Louisville held him out of a week of practice in the bye week.

Smith followed it up with a strong week of practice leading up to the loss to Florida on Saturday, but the sophomore wasn't as strong against the Gators' defense.

"We're in a little bit of a quandary right now, with what to do," Stoops said of the Smith versus Jalen Whitlow situation.

"We're going to try to give it to one person, give him the reps and see what he can do. I think we need to do that. It has not been clear– cut at this point, it would be reckless for us to name one guy at this point because nobody has taken the job and we're going to evaluate it this week."

Against the Gators' Southeastern Conference-leading defense, the Cats' offense stalled, managing just 47 plays, 13 fewer than it ran in the opener versus Western Kentucky. UK's 173 yards was the fewest it's accumulated all season.

"Once we made the move and were going with Max, he was doing pretty good in practice and gets hurt, still has a good practice then last week goes out in the game and doesn't play like he was practicing," Stoops said.

For the season, Smith has gone 44-for-76 (57.9 percent) passing for 634 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

Whitlow has completed 33 of 50 attempts (66 percent) passing for 321 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Neither has numbers that make the coaches want to hand him the offensive reins moving forward.

"We need to take one of these guys to take our team," Stoops said. "We just practice and practice every day, and play our games and hope one guy takes charge. He hasn't done that yet and I think like most people we feel the same frustration at times."

Carries for Kemp?

There had been some question after the Florida game about snaps allocated for true freshman running back Jojo Kemp, whom coaches had said the week before they wanted to get more carries.

After the Florida loss, neither Stoops nor offensive coordinator Neal Brown seemed clear about why Kemp had only three carries for 19 yards. Brown said substitutions were left up to position coach Chad Scott and they hadn't met yet.

Turned out that Kemp's lack of carries was mostly a matter of math.

UK only had seven possessions, 47 total plays and just 10 runs from the running back positions. Five went to Raymond Sanders, three to Kemp and two to Dyshawn Mobley.

In hindsight, Stoops would like to see UK try to run the ball a little more. "When you go back and look at the film we certainly could have run the ball more with the running backs inside, because we actually had some decent success."

Vacationin' with the Ol' Ball Coach

Mark Stoops' relationship with South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier goes back to 1996 when the former Florida coach hired Mark's brother Bob (now head coach at Oklahoma) to be the defensive coordinator for the Gators.

"Got to know him and his wife Geri, really their whole family, I know them very well," Stoops said of Spurrier. "We see them from time to time on vacation at the beach. Coach goes to the beach, same place Bob does, and Bob has some places and we see them every now and then.

"I always love seeing Coach Spurrier. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him — only played against him once — and anytime you play an offensive mind like Coach Spurrier, you have to change things up. He's very good, great play caller."

Stoops, a defensive guy by trade, said he enjoys squaring off with a sound offensive mind like Spurrier. "It's sleepless nights," Stoops said with a smile, "but it gives you a little fix."

Quick hitters

The only real depth chart change this week was moving former walk-on Max Godby to the starting spot at left guard ahead of long-time starter Zach West. Godby was a surprise starter at that spot last week.

"He's going to hold that position as of right now," Stoops said of Godby. "It's very important to Max, and maybe what he doesn't have physically he makes up for with his determination and effort. It important to him, he plays extremely hard."

■ Fans will get another chance to see Kentucky under the Commonwealth Stadium lights next week when top-ranked Alabama comes to town. The game, which will be shown on ESPN2, will kick off at 7 p.m., the SEC office announced on Monday.


Saturday

Kentucky at South Carolina

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: FS South

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

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