UK Football

WVU Coach Neal Brown on new Kentucky quarterback: ‘I think Sawyer will step up.’

Sawyer Smith is in his first season at the University of Kentucky, but this isn’t the first year he’s spent around Wildcats.

Former UK coach and player Neal Brown, a Boyle County graduate who’s in his first year as the head coach at West Virginia University, was Smith’s coach at Troy University. Mark Perry, another former Wildcat, was the director of operations at Troy under Brown during the final year he led the Trojans; Perry now is a quality control assistant at UK.

Smith started Troy’s final seven games last season after starter Kaleb Barker suffered a knee injury. He went 5-2 and was named MVP of the Dollar General Bowl after throwing for 320 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-32 win over Buffalo.

“I thought he did an admirable job,” Brown said during the Big 12 coaches teleconference Monday. “He played his best game in his last game in the bowl game. I hate to hear about Kentucky’s quarterback. I think Sawyer will step up.”

Brown, whose Mountaineers are 1-1 after suffering a 38-7 loss to Missouri last weekend, quickly returned his attention to WVU.

“Unfortunately I don’t have enough time to worry about Kentucky, I’ve got enough to worry about here.”

Smith did not consider transferring to WVU when he decided to leave Troy but had nothing but good things to say about Brown during the preseason.

“Neal has had such a positive impact on college football. Now I think he is really about to take off. He’s awesome,” Smith told syndicated columnist Larry Vaught last month. “ ... “I am sure he is wishing the best for me just like I am for him. I hope they win every game as long as they don’t play Kentucky.”

Josh Moore is in his first year covering the University of Kentucky football team and in his fifth year reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he’s been employed since 2009. Moore, a Martin County native, graduated from UK with a B.A. in Integrated Strategic Communication and English in 2013. He’s a huge fan of the NBA, Power Rangers and country music.