Stoops wants to see Kentucky's QB competition end quickly

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJuly 18, 2014 

From left, Kentucky quarterbacks Patrick Towles, Maxwell Smith and Drew Barker, all attached to resistance bands, went through passing drills Wednesday.

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

HOOVER, Ala. — Spring provided some "clarity" for Kentucky's coaches, but the Cats' quarterback situation is still up in the air.

In his second trip to Southeastern Conference Media Days, Mark Stoops was hit with a familiar question echoing from the year before: Who will be Kentucky's quarterback?

"We're still unsettled on who the starter is going to be," the UK head coach said in what could've been a replay of this time last year.

"But I'm very confident that we're going to improve at that position."

Unlike last year's battle, the spring competition between sophomore Patrick Towles, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips and true freshman Drew Barker probably yielded more answers than questions.

"There is some clarity in there, but there's also a lot of competition to go," Stoops said.

What kind of clarity?

"You know, I'm not going to go there too far, but I was pleased with the way we played," Stoops said. "We played better at that position. I think ... there may be a pecking order, but the job's not won."

There's also the potential addition of junior quarterback Maxwell Smith, who is still not back to 100 percent after having off-season surgery on his throwing shoulder. He is making throws, but not all of the throws.

Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Smith's throws are being limited as he rehabs the shoulder.

Neither Brown nor Stoops seemed interested in seeing the quarterback query extend far into fall camp, which starts the first full week of August.

Multiple times Stoops made reference to not enjoying not knowing.

"I don't want to be sitting here saying, 'He can't make a decision on the quarterback,'" Stoops said. "I need somebody to take charge and win that job, so we'll see."

The head coach isn't the only one ready for that decision to be made so the team can move on with a leader. Even players on the defensive side of the ball, like defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree, are anxious for it to happen.

"I want to see it ironed out as soon as possible," Dupree said Thursday, noting past frustrations with not having a true starter. "I think it'll play a big role in how our season turns out if the quarterback is named before we play or in the middle of camp."

But it's more about the quarterback candidates than the coaches, Dupree added.

"One quarterback has to step up and say, 'All right, I'm the starting quarterback. Even if I'm not named the starting quarterback, I'm that guy to take on the role and make sure that my team follows me.' Lead, call 7-on-7, call extra practice time, and just make sure everything's right," he said.

If there's been one positive from the constant quarterback question, it's that Towles, who marched out as the starter at the Blue-White Spring Game, Phillips and Barker are pushing one another.

"If one of them were to slack off that person knows that (he's) probably not going to be able to get as good as (he) could be," offensive lineman Jordan Swindle said. "The fact that they all have to keep getting better every day or they're going to be behind, it kind of makes them all better."

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

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