Kentucky looking to narrow down QB race quickly

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Quarterbacks headline Kentucky’s spring practice.

Returner Jalen Whitlow is battling with redshirt freshman Reese Phillips, early enrollee Drew Barker and redshirt sophomore Patrick Towles, but the most experienced signal caller Max Smith is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and isn’t participating in the competition. Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown would like to name a starter sooner, rather than later.

“I don’t want to go through all spring and all through camp and summer without having a clear-cut starter or at least having it narrowed down,” Mark Stoops said. “I’d prefer it sooner than later.”

The Wildcats have only practiced for a week. So, it’s not exactly startling that no quarterback is standing out among the others, but already, Neal Brown contends after just three spring practices there are better options available, even without Max Smith.

“Our quarterback play the last three practices has been better than it was last year,” he said.

“We’ve had three days of heavy install, and on all three days we’ve looked as good in the three days than we did at any point last year. We’re better. I don’t think we’ve arrived, but we’re definitely better.”

RELATED: Kentucky’s spring football forecast

The most intriguing aspect of the Stoops’ regime is Brown’s offense – the Air Raid. Brown’s 2012 Texas Tech offense averaged over 45 passing attempts and 355 yards per game. Conversely, Kentucky’s offense averaged just over 28 attempts per game and 193 yards per game last season. Much of that had to do with the streaky quarterback play of Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow, but the offensive line was also a major problem, which yielded the most sacks in the conference.

Not only do teams have to have quarterbacks to run this style of play, but they also have to have receiver depth. And that’s something Stoops and Brown have sought to build in the last two recruiting classes. The Cats have 14 receivers on the roster this spring, with more help coming this fall.

Ideally, the coaching staff would love one quarterback to take the job and never look back. I still think this race comes down to Reese Phillips and Drew Barker this fall.

Photo Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

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