LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky true freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith will start at quarterback in Kentucky’s contest against Southeastern Conference foe Ole Miss on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium, UK head coach Joker Phillips announced after practice Thursday.
With junior quarterback Morgan Newton being very limited in practice all week and still ailing for an injury sustained in the Mississippi State game, Smith has received most of the first-team repetitions in practice this week.
Smith has played in five games this season, completing 33-of-52 passes for 224 yards. Smith, who came to UK from Granada Hills, Calif., performed well against Mississippi State last week, completing 78.8 percent of his passes (26-for-33) for 174 yards. Smith received his first playing time in the Florida game, when he went 6-for-11 for 41 yards.
Phillips said the UK coaching staff has put more in the playbook this week for Smith and will work with Smith during the game Saturday to help him manage the game better.
“We have put a little bit more in for him,” Phillips said. “We are going to try to help him a little bit also with some of the calls and looking to us and all of those things we have done in the past with our check system. We will be able to give him more because we will be able to help him more.”
Although naming Smith the starter, Phillips wouldn’t rule out that Newton could play Saturday, saying that a lot could change between now and then. Phillips said Newton’s ankle was better Thursday than it had been all week, but they will have to wait and see if the junior quarterback can play.
If Newton isn’t healthy enough to be the backup quarterback Saturday, Phillips said Kentucky will go with true freshman quarterback Bookie Cobbins. Phillips said Cobbins would be used only in an emergency situation, but the coaches are not afraid to use him if needed and Cobbins is willing to play and help the team if called on.
“He is willing to go out there play and if we decided that we have to play him then we are going to play him,” Phillips said. “Four games at quarterback is a lot of snaps for you and who is to say he is going to play next year? Bookie Cobbins is willing to play four games if it comes to that.”
On the injury front, UK tailbacks Jonathan George and Coshik Williams practiced on Thursday and are expected to be ready to go for Saturday. Junior linebacker/end Ridge Wilson did not practice Thursday because of an eye issue, but should be ready to go for the game while cornerback Randall Burden sat out of practice Thursday, but should also play on Saturday.
Kentucky will have a walk-through practice on Friday to put the finishing touches on its preparation for Ole Miss.