UK football: QB Maxwell Smith still questionable going into fall camp

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJuly 14, 2014 

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The only remaining Kentucky quarterback with any true career starts is still a question mark going into fall camp.

Junior Maxwell Smith, who missed spring practice while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, has been cleared to throw, but it's unclear if he'll be one of UK's quarterback contenders in early August.

"Here's what I'm doing with Max: I'm just kind of playing it where it goes," UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown told the Herald-Leader on Monday. "He's back throwing; he's not throwing the ball 100 percent."

A healthy Smith, who has played in 21 games and started 11 at UK, could be in the quarterback competition between sophomore Patrick Towles and freshmen Reese Phillips and Drew Barker.

"He's started to throw," Brown said of Smith. "He hasn't really uncorked the ball yet with everything he has. I'm kind of waiting to see where he's at. If he's ready, we'll throw him in the mix. If he's not, then we're not. We're not going to put him in a situation that he's not ready for."

Brown said Smith had "extensive surgery" on his throwing shoulder in the off-season. Doctors have Smith on a "pitch count" each time he throws as well.

Smith has struggled with various injuries, including an ankle that he had surgically repaired as well.

In his career, the 6-foot-4 quarterback from Granada Hills, Calif., has thrown for 3,070 yards and 21 touchdowns.

But more than any numbers, Brown said he was impressed with how Smith handled adversity last season.

"If you look at Maxwell, I really thought he played two really good games (last year)," Brown said. "He got in there at that game at Georgia ... did some really good things that game and he played really well against Tennessee. We didn't make some plays around him, but he played really well and he was playing with that injured shoulder.

"So he stepped up and said, 'Hey, I want to go. I want to do this,' which really showed me something. So if he's healthy, we'll put him in the mix. If he's not, then we won't."

Regardless of whether he's on the field for UK this season or next, Brown said he has no doubt that Smith could be on the field one day with a headset and clipboard.

"He's going to be a really good coach at some point if that's what he decides he wants to do," Brown said. "He's got a good understanding of the game."

For his part of that discussion, in the newly released Kentucky media guide, Smith lists his dream job as being a head coach in the Southeastern Conference.

As for the UK quarterback query, Brown said he was comfortable leaving the position competition open after the spring because of the huge leap he saw each player make from January through the end of spring.

"Now I want to see how much from the end of spring ball and spring game to the first week of practice, how much improvement they've made," Brown said. "I'm excited about those three guys. They have an opportunity to be really good quarterbacks. It's my wish that somebody will take the reins and run with it."

Coaches aren't going to put any artificial timelines on the decision, but Brown said the plan is to name a starter "sooner rather than later."

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

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