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August 26, 2013

Stoops knows - but won't say - UK's starting QB

Coach Mark Stoops knows which quarterback will take the first snap against Western Kentucky.

He's alone in that knowledge.

While he confirmed that a final decision has been made on which Kentucky sophomore - Maxwell Smith or Jalen Whitlow - will start, he reaffirmed that he won't reveal that decision before Saturday's season opener.

"This first game, I just don't see the reason," Stoops said. "It's been a close battle the whole time. Might as well use it to our advantage, if it is one. I'm sure they'll be prepared for both quarterbacks."

Even his own quarterbacks don't know - yet.

"We will tell them this week," Stoops said.

And let the other players figure it out. He said he would tell Whitlow and Smith directly what would happen, and let the rest of the roster deduce it based on who's getting the most first-team reps in game-preparation drills.

As much as fans are clamoring to know which sophomore will be behind center to take the first snap of the Stoops era, the players are equally curious.

Junior defensive end Bud Dupree said the players talk about the decision "every day."

"We really want to know who's going to be the starting QB," Dupree said. "I guess Saturday everyone will find out."

No matter who the starter is, Stoops said both will play. But he's not ready to lock in a certain amount of playing time for each.

"We're not going to set anything in stone," Stoops said. "We do plan on playing both quarterbacks, yes. But if the other guy's rolling and we're doing well, then we may stick with it."

And after Saturday, things might clear up.

"This is probably the game that will determine who's going to be the starting QB," Dupree said.

Whichever way it goes, Stoops feels comfortable with who will be directing the offense.

Asked whether, from the perspective of a defensive coordinator, he would least like to face Whitlow or Smith, Stoops responded that it was "a very tricky question."

"The simple answer to that question is, one's a very dynamic runner and one's not," Stoops said. "But it would be, who's going to run the offense? If a person is only a runner, then I would feel pretty good as a defensive coordinator being able to stop that. I think it's whoever's running the offense most effectively."

Stoops said he did think Whitlow has proven himself to be more than just a running quarterback.

"I feel he can operate the offense very effectively," Stoops said. "He has done some very good things. With that being said, Max is better in certain areas as well. We'll see how Jalen grows and we'll see how Max grows. They're both very good players."

Newcomers expected to play
Four true freshmen and three additional junior-college transfers were listed among Kentucky's two-deep depth chart released Monday.

Freshmen wide receivers Alex Montgomery and Ryan Timmons, defensive end Jason Hatcher, and cornerback Jaleel Hytchye were listed as backups at their respective positions,

"Timmons is a guy that we all are excited about," Stoops said. "We expect a lot out of Javess. Jason Hatcher has been very impressive throughout camp. … I've been bragging on (Montgomery). Alex has been extremely good throughout camp. Expect to see him out there quite a bit."

As for the transfers, defensive end Za'Darius Smith and wide receiver Javess Blue were listed as starters, while cornerback Nate Willis was listed as a backup.

Willis arrived late on campus and is "just not as physically prepared" as the rest of the team, Stoops said, but he is expected to contribute against WKU.

"I feel good about Nate," Stoops said. "He is caught up. He's a guy that missed summer, as you know. He's working his way into shape right now, and that's hurt him a little bit, as you would expect."

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