UK football notebook: Two weeks before opener, QB question still unanswered

Herald-Leader staff writerAugust 16, 2014 

The media have run out of clever ways to ask about the Kentucky quarterback situation.

The coaches have run out of clever ways to dodge the Kentucky quarterback queries.

Hopefully the closed scrimmage on Saturday will provide some answers.

Nearly two-thirds of the plays were pass plays at Commonwealth Stadium to help Neal Brown and Mark Stoops make their final assessment of who will run the Cats' offense on Aug. 30.

Will it be Drew Barker, Reese Phillips, Patrick Towles or Maxwell Smith?

No coach was ready to answer that and Stoops said he refuses to be rushed into making a decision.

"If we're ready, if we feel like we have a decision after that, then we'll make an announcement," he said. "If we don't, then we'll wait.

"Each quarterback has really shown that they're capable of leading this offense. Each of them has made some mistakes, like you'd anticipate. We've got to get it figured out. We'll get in there and watch all this tape and see if we're ready to make a decision. We'll see where that goes."

What exactly will the coaches be looking for in the film?

"It's hard to talk about; It's easy to see, though," Brown said. "Different quarterbacks operate our offense differently."

He will specifically be looking at decision-making, especially in third-down situations, and who is the most accurate with his passes.

Whoever gets the job whenever it gets named, Brown said the Cats have a lot of work to do in the passing game before the opener, both by the guy throwing the ball and the guys catching the ball.

"We need these two weeks," Brown said. "I'm not going to ask if we can forfeit these practices or anything, we need these two weeks to get better."

When asked later what's nagging him still, he went back to the passing game issues.

Some of that will be alleviated by the narrowing of repetitions at quarterback and some of it will be resolved by getting key wide receivers fully healthy.

"We'll really concentrate hard for the next five to seven days on the passing game," Brown reiterated.

Badet injures eye

Kentucky might have to hire a full-time eye doctor if its wide receivers keep having freak injuries.

Last season Javess Blue had to miss the Cats' game against Alabama State after taking a football to the eye in warm-ups. The ball reportedly slipped through an old pair of gloves and caused his eye to swell shut.

Something strangely similar happened to UK sophomore Jeff Badet, who took a tennis ball to the eye while he was working with the machines to improve players' hand-eye coordination.

"So we'll see how serious that is in the next — well really we won't know for about a week on that," Stoops said of Badet, who has been limited in camp while recovering from a broken leg that happened at the end of spring practices.

Dousing for a good cause

Mark Stoops and his staff — and even special guest Joe Craft — did their part for ALS research on Saturday after the Cats' scrimmage, joining in the ice bucket challenge craze that has taken over social media.

The players were eager to douse their coaches and the coaches were eager to do it, thinking especially about UK administrator Marc Hill, who lost his father to the debilitating disease.

"It was fun," Stoops said. "We did it in honor of him and the team. We were glad to partake."

The players agreed it was pretty enjoyable, too.

"I got to dump Coach Stoops today," defensive end Bud Dupree said. "It was pretty fun."

Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot was asked about the experience. It didn't sound like he had as much fun.

How did it feel?

"Like an ice bucket," he said with a smile. "It felt like somebody dumping an ice bucket on you."

Eliot then jokingly (I hope!) challenged the group of reporters to do their own ice-bucket challenge in the next 24 hours.

'I' before 'E' except after Z?

If you ever ask for the autograph of defensive end Denzil Ware, forgive him if he spells his own name wrong.

It's been a lifelong problem for the true freshman from Crestview, Fla.

On his birth certificate, his mother spelled his name Denzil, but early in his life people would mispronounce his name "Den-ZIL" instead of the proper "Den-ZEL."

Ware got tired of correcting people so in fifth grade, he just started spelling his name the way he wanted people to pronounce it, thus his entire football playing career he's been known as "Denzel Ware."

Ware might have just kept spelling it the way it sounds all the way through college if it hadn't been for that pesky NCAA, which ran his paperwork but couldn't find any record of a "Denzel Ware."

"The NCAA had it as 'IL' because that's what was on my actual records, so I had to change it back to the 'I', so I couldn't keep the E," Ware explained on Media Day. "So I had to redo all of my paperwork with the right spelling and then I was able to get my letter of intent signed."

From now on, he'll just go with the proper spelling.

"It's definitely complicated my life," he said with a grin.

Better than No. 1?

In high school, Stanley "Boom" Williams wore No. 1, but when he got to Kentucky, Ryan Timmons already had his name on the back of that jersey, which sent the freshman running back on a quest for new digits.

So he requested No. 18.

"And the first thing that was said to me when I said I wanted 18 was 'Do you know what you are asking for? You've got big shoes to fill,'" the person told Williams, noting that the most recent Cats to wear No. 18 are NFL regulars Randall Cobb and Jacob Tamme.

But Williams already knew that. They were part of the reason he wanted No. 18.

"I actually watched Kentucky when I was little," the Monroe, Ga., native said. "I'd see Randall Cobb, Jacob Tamme and those guys. I watched them make a lot of big plays. So, wearing this number, I've got to make a lot of big plays and come up big."

Stoops vs. Stoops

Freshman nickel back Kendall Randolph is one of the rare players who was recruited by both Kentucky and Oklahoma.

Both teams have a head coach with the last name Stoops.

But Randolph said he wasn't stuck in any kind of family feud with Sooners Coach Bob Stoops calling one day and Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops calling the next.

"I actually didn't ever talk to Bob," Randolph said. "I had a relationship with my coach Stoops since my freshman year when he was at Florida State. Me and him, we have a really close relationship, so he's known me for a long time. I never got a chance to talk to his brother, though, just some of the defensive coaches there."

Randolph said his relationship with Mark Stoops was key in getting him to come to UK. On signing day in February, the UK coach seemed pleased with what he was getting in the Tallahassee native.

"We've had a great relationship, and I told him he was just meant to play for me," Stoops said. "I didn't know the school, but he was meant to play for me and to play with this team."

The bigger the better?

It's not often that coaches have candid, funny moments with the media, but Neal Brown had a couple of classics on Friday afternoon. After practice, the offensive coordinator walked up to the podium and said: "Broke my sunglasses; you can tell it probably wasn't that good of a day."

Brown later was asked about the progress of UK center Jon Toth, who has been touted as one of the most improved players for the Cats' offense this offseason.

"The first thing that really jumps out at you is how much bigger he is," Brown said. "I was watching a little bit of our film from last year over the last couple weeks, just kind of looking at some opponents' personnel and things like that, and he's noticeably bigger. We watch the camera shot from behind, and his behind is a lot bigger than it was last year. So that's good. He got sick right in the middle of the year and lost some weight."

Later Brown was asked about other players' backsides and he blushed a little bit.

"I don't know," he smiled. "I probably shouldn't have gone there."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Email: jsmith3@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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