UK Football Notebook: Tuesday

Kentucky's post-practice wrap-up Tuesday with head coach Mark Stoops began much like those which had preceded it when the obligatory question about the Wildcats' quarterback battle was presented. But then, a potential hint emerged.

Kentucky's post-practice wrap-up Tuesday with head coach Mark Stoops began much like those which had preceded it when the obligatory question about the Wildcats' quarterback battle was presented.

Has anyone been making the most plays at the position?

"There's been a few (nice plays)," Stoops said. "I can't hand that off to anybody. I can't tell you, I'm sorry.

"We're working towards it. Everybody's all anxious for it. You've got to remember, everything has been open. There's been equal reps to this point. But we've evaluated every snap going back to last spring, so we've got all the information on who's done what and all that. You'd like to see them with the 1 offense, the 1 wide receivers, the 1 offensive line and all that, so we've got to give them the right opportunities with the right guys.

"But, yeah, we've collected all this data, and we've got an idea, sure, just like we do at all of our positions."

In other words, no significant movement in the battle between sophomores Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles and freshman Reese Phillips.

But then came a tiny morsel, a hint perhaps, from the UK boss to a media corps and fan base starving for information on the subject.

"(Jalen) pulled one and ran for about a 50-yard touchdown today," Stoops said. "I'll give you that bone… Not very good defense, but he looked good running down there."

The UK staff has frequently referred to the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Whitlow as one of the best athletes and playmakers on the roster. He brings an added running threat to the position that the Wildcats' other quarterbacks do not offer, which begs the question: if he does not emerge as the starter, will UK look for other ways to get him on the field?

"Yeah, I think that's reasonable," Stoops said. "And I also think there's a place for him whether he won the job or not to play him in the game because of the dimension that he gives you."

In the final two games of the 2012 season, Whitlow rushed for 90 yards on 16 carries against Samford and Tennessee. He had three rushing touchdowns as a freshman.

Although the staff has offered nothing on the record to support it, speculation has been swirling in recent days that Whitlow, who had a strong showing during spring practice, might be the frontrunner for the job as the Aug. 31 opener against Western Kentucky rapidly approaches.

The Cats have a major scrimmage scheduled for Saturday which could solidify the starter.

Productive ‘Live' Period:

Stoops said the Cats had a "good day" on Tuesday highlighted by a spirited "live" 11-on-11 session at the end of practice. The period featured "full-go to the ground" tackling, he added. It was the first time the team has approached the session in that manner, so Stoops was looking forward to seeing how his players responded.

"We got a lot of good work in again," he said. "Both sides of the ball were good at times, inconsistent at times, which is what you'd expect."

The offense had a few 12-play drives, according to Stoops, and he was pleased with how the team's improved conditioning allowed it to keep the tempo high.

Mansour Connects from Long Range:

Special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto noted that senior kicker Joe Mansour, who is the expected starter this year, connected on a 53-yard field goal near the end of the team's two-minute drill work to end practice.

"That was a pretty pressure kick right there," Peveto said. "Pretty proud of that."

The LaGrange (Ga.) native has been a kickoff specialist for most of his UK career. He came to UK with the reputation of possessing a strong leg, but has not been used in field goal situations. Mansour made field goals of 59, 56 and 52 yards during his high school career.

Jucos Update:

Stoops said he could not confirm the news that junior college cornerback Nate Willis tweeted regarding his successful completion of eligibility requirements to enroll at UK, but added "I hope when I walk in the building (to his office at the Nutter Training Center) that I have something on my desk that will tell me that. We're very close. (Willis) said that all the work is done, so we're expecting to get him here very soon. And we certainly need him."

The staff also expects that juco defensive tackle Melvin Lewis will soon be cleared to enroll at UK. "We hope to have them here on campus by the end of the week," Stoops said.

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for daily newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.
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