GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Kentucky had a week of uncertainty at quarterback.
Early in the week, coaches believed that starter Maxwell Smith's bruised acromioclavicular joint (shoulder) would be fine by game time. They put in some repetitions for backups Morgan Newton and Jalen Whitlow, but not anything substantial.
Thursday after Smith practiced, Coach Joker Phillips said the trainers told him that a hit could injure Smith more seriously this week. On the plane, the head coach said he made the decision to play Newton instead.
"I treat him like he's my kid and I just did not want to do that," Phillips said. "Max wanted to go and was willing to take a shot, but I was not willing to do that to him, to our football team. I treat him like he's one of my kids and I wouldn't want to risk one of my kids being out for a significant amount of time."
Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said it was clear in warm-ups that Smith, the Southeastern Conference's leading passer with 966 yards and eight touchdowns, wasn't at full speed.
"Just the way the ball came out of his hand," Sanders explained. "When you're around a guy as much as I am, you know what it's supposed to look like. When it's not even close to that, you know the guy's not healthy."
Sanders said it was a "tough call" because Smith wanted to play.
"It was one of those deals where if he got hurt again, he might've been out the next four or five weeks," Sanders said. "It was obviously a tough decision not to play him, because we feel like he probably gives us our best opportunity to win. But at the same time, if you play him and he gets hurt, you probably lose your best opportunity to win the next four or five weeks also."
The sophomore quarterback should be fine by Saturday against South Carolina.
Sanders and Phillips both took their share of questions about why Whitlow wasn't put in the game until the fourth quarter, despite the fact that Newton was ineffective at best.
"Coming into this environment with a true freshman that hadn't really played any would've been tough to do," Sanders said.
"Morgan obviously had missed a couple guys and made a couple bad decisions with where he threw the ball, but at the same time, he allowed us to run a lot more of our offense. Jalen can do a few things, and can do a few things pretty well, but it's pretty limited."
The true freshman quarterback, who missed all but one of his six pass attempts, will be better prepared next time, Phillips said.
"We'll get Max back and we'll try to get Jalen ready to be our No. 2 full time," he said.
Cobble in hospital;injuries mount
Junior defensive tackle Mister Cobble did not make the trip to Gainesville with the team after developing an infection in his knee that hospitalized him late Friday afternoon.
The infection started in his wrist last week and moved down to his knee, Phillips said. He did not know, so he could not elaborate on what type of infection Cobble is battling.
Tristian Johnson subbed for Cobble. Phillips offered no timetable for the junior's return.
"It will be a day-to-day deal," Phillips said. "It will be tough. He hasn't really eaten much in the last couple of days. We'll just have to wait and see."
■ Before the game even started, UK was battling injuries, with cornerback Cartier Rice (thigh bruise) not making the trip and true freshman Cody Quinn (who played just a few snaps against Kent State) getting the start. Senior running back CoShik Williams (hip strain) also was out. By the end of the loss to Florida, the injury list was lengthy. Safety Ashely Lowery had a head injury and was experiencing concussion-like symptoms. Darrian Miller reinjured his ankle as did fellow offensive lineman Kevin Mitchell. Tight end Tyler Robinson hurt his back.
Running back Raymond Sanders was one of three Kentucky players suspended for the Western Kentucky game after being cited for marijuana possession. He ran for 48 yards on 10 carries for UK on Saturday at The Swamp.
The junior didn't discuss the possession charge and said he wasn't looking to come in and be productive to make amends for missing last week.
"I just wanted to come out and play like I've been playing," said Sanders, who had a career night with 13 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown in the Kent State win. "I'd been playing well and didn't want to change anything up because I'd been rushing the ball really well. I just wanted to come in and keep doing what I've been doing."