At the beginning of the 2012 season, the previous coaching staff for the Kentucky Wildcats named Maxwell Smith as the starting quarterback, ahead of Kentucky’s Mr. Football, Patrick Towles. Former head coach Joker Phillips and former offensive coordinator Randy Sanders thought that Smith gave Kentucky the best chance to win through the season.
Smith had a good start last season, hitting on 103-of-150 (68.7 percent) through the air with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Smith passed for 280 yards and two scores in the Wildcats’ season-opening loss at the Louisville Cardinals. Smith’s best game came against the Kent State Golden Flashes, when he passed for 354 yards and four scores. He followed that by passing for 332 yards and a pair of scores in a loss to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
Smith then missed Kentucky’s game with the Florida Gators with a shoulder injury, but he returned to face the South Carolina Gamecocks the following week. However, on the first series of the game, Smith injured his leg, an injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season.
In Smith’s absence, both Towles and Jalen Whitlow saw time behind center. Both were true freshmen which showed at times. However, there were also flashes from both players that gave hope for the future.
Now, Phillips and his staff are gone. They’ve been replaced by Mark Stoops and his staff, which includes new offensive coordinator Neal Brown. The former offensive coordinator for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Brown must pick a starter from the three players that played quarterback last season.
It appears that Smith would be the primary candidate, but Brown knows what kind of quarterback he wants and he will ultimately make the decision. Brown will use the spring and, if necessary, the fall to determine which player is best suited to run his pass-happy offense.
Smith has more experience that both Towles and Whitlow, which gives him a big advantage as the ‘Cats try to select their next leader. Smith also connects on a high percentage of his passes, which is also important in the new offense. Those two factors should lead to Smith being the choice of the UK coaching staff this fall.