Boyd, Lorenzen ready for 'healthy' QB battle

Shane Boyd and Jared Lorenzen will renew the quarterback competition they began this spring when varsity practice opens Friday at the Nutter Center...

LEXINGTON, Ky.  --- If it's a quarterback competition you seek, you're focused in the right place.

Often viewed as a distraction that can lead to a full-blown controversy, many teams hope to avoid a spirited battle for the most glamorous position on the field.

But not new Kentucky coach Guy Morriss. He wouldn't have it any other way. Neither would the competitors in question --- sophomore Jared Lorenzen, the hefty lefty who led the Southeastern Conference in passing last year, and Shane Boyd, the slick redshirt freshman from Lexington's Henry Clay High School.

Lorenzen has the advantage of a year's experience against the likes of Mississippi State

The two talented signal callers will begin duking it out for the right to be named starter as the Wildcats open full team drills Friday at the Nutter Center.

"I'm glad I have a chance to compete for the job," Boyd said. "Jared's a great quarterback. He'll be hard to beat out, but like I said, I'm glad they've given me a chance. I'm going to do everything I can to win the job."

"I'm looking forward to it," said Lorenzen, who looked brilliant at times and unpolished at others in leading the SEC in both yards (3,687) and interceptions (21) last season. "I believe that competition only brings out the best in you."

In some ways, it already has.

The two players appeared to be on equal ground coming out of spring practice. But Lorenzen's weight --- which teetered along the 300 mark last season --- was a super-sized concern for Morriss and new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

The UK camp has been mum on what weight the 6-foot-4 Lorenzen has been told to achieve in the coming weeks, but Morriss says he has lost approximately 30 pounds since the 2000 season finale against Tennessee.

"I look a lot better and feel a lot better," said Lorenzen, pulling his jersey tight against his new waistline during Media Day. "The gut is going away.

"I think I won some respect from my teammates. When you say you're going to do something and you do it, that goes a long way."

Conditioning was also a key for Boyd, who came into camp last year with more than 240 pounds on his 6-2 frame.  He's now a sculpted 228, which should make both players physically ready for the competition.

"The competition is good. It's been very healthy. It's pushed both guys," Morriss said. "...The fact that Jared's got his weight down close to where we want it will allow him to be more mobile. We like that. We're going to put a little more of that into our offense, and that will help him tremendously. He rushed for over 300 yards last year as it was. We'd like to do some things like boot(legs) and waggles and quarterback draws. For us to be able to do that, he needed to get down where we wanted weight-wise."

After defeating the battle of the bulge, it becomes a matter of who can best lead the team.

"The quarterback situation is the same as it's been all summer. The guys have had the competition going since spring. They'll start tomorrow with the competition still going on," Morriss said. "Somebody's got to take the first snap, and that will be Jared (Lorenzen) based ont he fact that he's the previous starter.

"And then it's just a matter of, hopefully, one of those guys will rise. That's the way I would like to see this quarterback competition settled, an individual on the field stepping up, taking the bull by the horns and winning the job."

While Morriss has hinted he could wait until hours before the season opener against Louisville to name a starter, he'd rather avoid that scenario.

" I'd like to see that get done rather than me have to rack my brains for two or three nights trying to make a decision based on what information we have," he said. "I hope that it's a clear-cut favorite by his performance on the football field."

Lorenzen's advantages?

"Jared obviously has a stronger arm than Shane, although not a lot stronger," Morriss said. "The biggest plus that Jared has is his experience, starting 11 games last year, and that experience is extremely valuable to a football player, having played in 'live' situations."

And Boyd?

Boyd received guidance from new offensive coordinator Brent Pease during spring practice.

"Shane is an extremely intelligent, fiercely competitive young man," Morriss said. "He's extremely mobile, so we know that those type things we want to do in our offense, he may be the better guy.

"But the thing that hurts Shane right now is he hasn't been on the field. He hasn't played. When the bullets start flying, so to speak, that may be the difference because you never know how a player is going to react. I've seen a lot of great practice players, then when it starts counting they're not quite the same type of player. That's an unknown about Shane."

But the UK coach says he has no qualms about handing the reigns to the untested Boyd should he win the starting role.

"If he clearly wins the job, then he will start. I think we're trying to make this decision for our long-term, what's best for the future of this football program," Morriss said. "If Shane demonstrates to us that he's the better quarterback, then he's going to start. At some point, every player that steps on that field it's his first start. You've got to give them that opportunity.

"And if he comes out of two-a-days as the starter and doesn't get it done in the first game, then we'll reassess our options and make a change or adjustments if necessary. But I don't think you can tell these kids we're going to have a competition and the winner will be declared on the field, then a guy wins it and you don't give him the job. Then I lose credibility that way."

Morriss declined to state who had the upper hand at this juncture.

"We have two guys who are very close, and either one of them could come out of it as the starter."

"It's a healthy competition," Lorenzen said. "Shane earned the right to be here this spring. I hope he does well, but I hope I've got enough to fend him off."

"I just want to do my best, and if it's not good enough, I'll be the best backup I can be," Boyd said.

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