Who will be at QB for Kentucky on Saturday?
With Kentucky’s pivotal SEC showdown against Arkansas looming Saturday night, a central mystery is who exactly will be running the UK offense.
We break down the possible suspects, and give a brief rundown on the best and worst of any possible scenarios, which could include running the Wildcat with receiver Lynn Bowden.
Keep in mind, Kentucky might end up using several of its QB options, particularly if things go as badly as they did in UK’s last game, a 24-7 loss at South Carolina that wasn’t even as close as the score.
Here are the possibilities:
Numbers: 54-for-117 (46%), 665 yards, 4 TDs, 5 INTs, (passed for 1,669 yards and 14 TD last year at Troy)
Pro: Smith, when healthy, has demonstrated an ability to make SEC-level throws at Troy and in his time in Lexington. He’s the only option with any meaningful college football experience at quarterback. He’s also the most likely player to take snaps — if he’s healthy.
Con: He isn’t healthy. In 3 weeks as UK’s starting QB, Smith has apparently injured his shoulder, his wrist and his leg. In each game he has played, Smith has looked less physically able to play the quarterback position.
Against Florida, he nearly won the game. Against Mississippi State, he was inconsistent. Against South Carolina, he was either hurt, completely lost or both. How much can 2 weeks off help? It’s fair to assume that Smith isn’t exactly taking many snaps in practice right now.
Numbers: Wide receiver is 6-for-9 passing (67%), 131 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
Pro: Bowden is possibly the best athlete on Kentucky’s team, and as a former high school quarterback, he’s shown his ability to create havoc in the Wildcat package. He also led Kentucky’s only scoring drive in their loss at South Carolina, albeit against a very vanilla prevent defense.
Con: While he is a superb athlete, Bowden hasn’t played quarterback full-time since high school, and given his size and inexperience, would seem an unlikely pocket passer.
Additionally, when Bowden is the quarterback, the offense loses its best receiving threat. The additional injury risk to Bowden is another possible danger.
Numbers: None, except in Blue-White scrimmages (3-for-5, 19 yards, 1 INT in spring 2019)
Pro: Wood is a 3rd-year Wildcat and has spent more time around the program and around Eddie Gran’s offense than everybody else on this list combined. He’s reputed to be an athletic enough player that rumors have circulated of him moving to another position (possibly wide receiver). He is listed as the second option on Kentucky’s depth chart.
Con: Wood has undergone multiple shoulder surgeries and the failure to play him in the South Carolina game — combined with some wonderfully left-handed compliments from Stoops — have suggested that the staff doesn’t think that he’s actually up to playing quarterback at Kentucky.
Admittedly, in glimpses in scrimmages and practices, Wood has failed to distinguish himself.
Numbers: None in college, was the No. 42 pro-style QB in his class per 247sports.com. Gilmore is a true freshman and a potential redshirt.
Pro: Gilmore impressed onlookers in fall practice with a very live arm. Given the shift in redshirt rules, giving Gilmore a shot would not imperil his ability to use his redshirt status.
Kentucky could play him in up to 4 games and still redshirt him. Presumably, if the QB situation is centering around Smith’s health, that could be long enough to make a difference.
Con: Absolutely no experience for Gilmore, and it’s safe to assume that he would struggle with grasping the offense. While Kentucky’s coaches are positive about Gilmore’s potential and long-term ability, he’s basically going unmentioned in the discussion of who plays this Saturday, which suggests that he’s probably not among the top couple of options.