A Glimmer of Hope

Several young Wildcats, especially on the offensive side of the ball, have brought newfound hope to a Kentucky football season that many thought was doomed before it even started. Will the young guns wind up saving their coach?

Coming into this season, I was not optimistic about Kentucky's chances of producing a good year. Because a subpar year seemed inevitable for the Wildcats, so would the termination of their third-year coach, Joker Phillips.

After two games and a 1-1 start, I'm just as convinced that the Cats will miss a bowl game for the second straight season.

But I'm also smiling. Why? It's not that I'm anti-UK and want the Cats and Joker to fail, as some have charged on our show and on message boards. It's that I see a potentially bright future, even if this season's hopes remain fragile. You can credit Maxwell Smith & Co. for my heart warming.

I believed Smith was the right choice to be UK's quarterback. I said so daily on my radio show during the summer. It was actually hard for me to believe that Morgan Newton was even a candidate considering his largely ineffective play a year ago.

Still, Smith has far exceeded what I thought was possible. He had a solid game in the Cats' blowout loss to Louisville and played even better in UK's win over Kent State. After two games, Smith has a completion rate of 73 percent and an average of 317 yards per game. Not bad for a guy that's just a sophomore and has only a handful of games under his belt.

I know that the competition hasn't been great, and that's contributed to his strong start, but his numbers aren't the most impressive thing about him. It's his composure and understanding of his position.

Coaches and teammates have pointed out many times that Smith has done a remarkable job of getting them in the right spots and specifically the offensive line in the right blocking schemes. When the protection breaks down, Smith also stays with the play, and, at least in the first two games, has made the play.

Critics say Smith doesn't have a rocket for an arm, but then again, who does? What Max does have is an accurate arm that delivers a very catchable ball. Have you noticed how much better the receiving corps has been this year? Maybe the dropped passes weren't all on them last season.

The highest compliment you can pay a player is to have confidence in them that if given the chance they'll make a play. That's the reason why I was a huge Randall Cobb fan. I'm getting that feeling that Max Smith can deliver the same playmaking ability.

However, Smith can't do it alone. Thankfully, there appears to be young talent sprinkled all around the offense. UK has a couple of potential all-conference linemen in sophomore Darrian Miller and freshman Zach West.

We've seen what sophomore running back Josh Clemons can do if he gets healthy. Add juniors Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George and freshman Dyshawn Mobley to the mix and you've got quality depth in the backfield.

I love freshman Daryl Collins' potential, and I think fellow freshman DeMarcus Sweat and sophomore Demarco Robinson have real shot contribute at a high level.

If nothing else, at least the Cats will be entertaining this season, and they've got a chance to be more than that next season if some of the young guys on D progress like their offensive counterparts.

It's still early, and perhaps in a couple of games I might feel differently about all of this. The big question remains: will Joker Phillips be around to see this impressive crop of young guns grow into a dangerous SEC team?

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Larry Glover is the host of Larry Glover Live, a daily syndicated sports program broadcast in Lexington on AM 590 WVLK and on various stations around the state from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. You can follow him on Twitter at @LarryGloverLive.

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