All eyes on quarterbacks in Kentucky's Blue-White Spring Game

jsmith3@herald-leader.comApril 25, 2014 

Kentucky quarterback Reese Phillips practiced Wednesday with the team.

PHOTO BY CHARLES BERTRAM | STAFF — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

  • Blue-White Spring Game

    When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Commonwealth Stadium

    TV: Live on CWKYT-27.2 (Delayed broadcasts on Fox Sports South at 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday)

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630

Nearly every day of Kentucky's spring practice has included some sort of quarterback query.

Coaches have talked about general positives and negatives from the group.

It was tough to tell if any of the quarterbacks was emerging to seize the position, something the coaches waited all season for in 2013.

At Saturday's Blue-White Spring Game, it sounds like this season's leader will emerge with the first-team offense.

"We're starting to narrow it down," head coach Mark Stoops said Friday. "We'll put the person out there with the first group that we think has earned the right to go out there with the first group tomorrow."

Whether it be sophomore Patrick Towles, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips or early enrollee Drew Barker, it doesn't necessarily mean he will be the starter in UK's August opener.

"It's very close still — it's very close — but we'll see," Stoops added.

The head coach was pressed a little on whether a starter will be evident after the scrimmage.

"I don't know; your guess will be as good as mine," he said. "We'll see what happens."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown declined to discuss the quarterback spot in his session with the media Friday, noting that he'd be talking about that threesome on Saturday.

He acknowledged this week that the lack of experience — Towles is the only one with a career collegiate throw, in fact 40 of them in 2012 — among the three is a concern, but not necessarily a negative.

"I'll take talent over experience," Brown said. "As long as they're talented, which the three kids that are practicing right now are.

"There will be some mistakes. I think you've gotta kind of factor that in. ... But I feel good about those guys. They know how to prepare and we'll do a good job putting them in a position where they can be successful."

All three will be part of the action on Saturday in front of what is expected to be a pseudo sellout of 42,500 at Commonwealth Stadium, which will have a limited capacity because of ongoing renovations.

But Brown won't pull any pranks as he did last spring game, putting all possible quarterbacks on the field for the first play.

"That wouldn't be funny this year," he said. "That wouldn't be funny."

Despite injuries at several key positions, Stoops said the plan is to hold a scrimmage similar to last season with 12-minute quarters, which yielded 147 plays last season.

"It's gonna be a fun game," he said. "The first half will be normal outside of just shortened a little bit. So we'll get after it the first half. The second half, if we're getting enough plays we may run the clock a little bit in the fourth quarter."

The game will feature starters versus the rest of the team with some switching out of necessity.

"We're working through that with depth and see what happens tomorrow," Stoops said. "Hopefully we'll stay healthy and we won't have to do that too much. But we have a few guys that could swing."

Brown and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot will swing between sides of the field and call plays for both groups, Stoops said.

"This is still a practice for us, as you know, and there's people in the stands; we'll see who responds, who plays well," he said. "It's still very important for us to evaluate how we play tomorrow."

The only thing missing from the game will be live kicking situations.

"We'll have our snapper and punters and do the field goals, but outside of that no live kicks, and no kickoffs at all," Stoops said. "So we'll just put the ball down and turn it around and go the other way."

All of the operational and organizational discussions around the pads-free practice on Friday had right tackle Jordan Swindle excited to get on the field.

"I just want to go out and show how much we've gotten better as a team, and I think it's important for the fans to know how far we've come from last year," Swindle said. "I'd say the progress that the team has made since last year is unreal compared to where we were at the end of the season last year."

UK's offensive coordinator was a little more muted in his praise.

"Well, we're better," he said, noting that tempo and fundamentals will be improved. "We're better. Are we where we want to be? No. I think we're a year away from where we've got a chance to be really good."

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

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