The Kentucky Wildcats are determined to rebound quickly and in a big way from last season’s 2-10 (0-8) record. New head coach Mark Stoops, though, already has a proven SEC quarterback whom he can lean on to turn the Wildcats’ fortunes around: Maxwell Smith.
Kentucky has had three sophomore quarterbacks competing for the starting quarterback role throughout the spring and heading into the summer: Smith, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow. The decision should not require as much debate as it has received, however. Maxwell Smith is easily the best quarterback of the group.
Although Smith had his season cut short with a serious injury, his numbers were better than the other two quarterbacks who saw significant time in his absence. Smith finished with a passer rating of 135.5 while completing 68.7 percent of his passes for 975 yards with eight touchdowns and just four interceptions (all four coming in an OT loss to upstart Western Kentucky when he was injured). The other quarterbacks paled in comparison with these numbers.
Towles, who also sustained an injury, posted a passer rating of 99.7 while completing less than 50 percent of his passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Whitlow, who saw most of the snaps last season, had a passer rating of 99.5 as he completed 54-percent of his passes for 801 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Out of these two, Whitlow actually shows to have the better numbers and upside as he can produce on the ground as well (three rushing touchdowns in 2012).
While many believe that Towles is the quarterback of the future, Smith has more experience, better numbers and a brighter future. Smith can run better than Towles, which is a huge factor given the instability of Kentucky’s offensive line. Smith also has started games in 2011 and 2012 even though he remains a redshirt sophomore with three seasons of eligibility. Experience and upside are on Smith’s side as the quarterback battle rages on, and not naming Smith the starter could lead to Stoops’ early exit.
Quarterback is the most important position on the football field. In order to win, teams must have a quarterback who has the ability and experience to perform well against the great defenses of the SEC. Smith has everything a coach could ask for while the others do not making him an easy choice to lead the Wildcats in 2013.