Some thoughts on Kentucky football through Monday's practices:
– I'll admit I was surprised that Joker Phillips didn't name Maxwell Smith as his starting quarterback during his meeting with the media this afternoon. All signs after Saturday's scrimmage seemed to point toward the sophomore getting the nod. Phillips was a little more coy on Saturday, saying he needed to look at the tape to see if there was “enough separation” to make a decision. Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders was more blunt, without going all the way to making his pick. Sanders praised Smith, said Morgan Newton was still trying to overcome his off-season shoulder surgery and that the two true freshmen (Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow) were significantly behind the two veterans.
On Monday, Phillips basically said there is not enough separation to place the starter designation on either quarterback. I still think Smith is the leader and wouldn't surprise me if Wednesday is the day when Phillips ends the competition. There is no media availability on Tuesday, so it could be that the decision could be made on Tuesday, the particulars informed and then everyone gets a day to digest the decision before everyone goes in front of the media on Wednesday.
Then again, Phillips indicated early in camp that it would probably be after the second scrimmage before he publicly picked a quarterback. He may stick to that and we won't get an announcement until next week. It may also be that Phillips wants Louisville to wait a little longer. Smith is more of a pocket quarterback than Newton, who is a more effective runner. Preparing for the two is not exactly the same. As long as your team is ok with the competition, it doesn't hurt to make the opponent wait.
– Phillips on Monday echoed Rick Minter's comments on Saturday praising junior linebacker Avery Williamson. Phillips talked about Williamson taking “ownership” of the defense. Minter was not as happy with his outside linebackers as with Williamson, who Phillips praised for the way he has worked during the off-season.
“Defensively, again I liked the way Avery Williamson has taken ownership of the defense,” said Phillips. “That showed up in the off-season. That's not just showing up now. It showed up in the off-season and the summer, the way he went about his business and it's carried on to the football team also.”
– Back to the offense. Sanders appears much more comfortable and optimistic about the offense than he did at this time a year ago. Remember, a veteran offensive line was to be the strength of last year's offense. Injuries popped up early sidetracking the unit's chemistry. Throw in the lack of veteran skill players, plus Newton's inconsistency and then injury, and you had a recipe for disaster, or at least a recipe for an impotent offense.
This year, the offensive line is inexperienced while the skill positions appear to have more talent and more depth. Phillips particuarly praised LaRod King for his play on Saturday. The head coach said the freshmen running backs Dyshawn Mobley and Justin Taylor, both of whom are power backs, would see playing time this season.
Sanders said Monday that UK has not had a big, power back since he has been in Lexington. Indeed, Rich Brooks' lead tailbacks were Raphael Little and Derrick Locke, both of which were better on the perimeter than between the tackles.