Coming off a 24-7 loss to Florida in which the Wildcats scored their only points on a fake field goal, UK head coach Mark Stoops indicated Monday that he'd like to get away from the two-quarterback platoon of Jalen Whitlow and Max Smith that has struggled to produce drives and points early in the season.
"We would like to get to one. We really would," said Stoops, whose team dropped to last in the SEC in scoring at 21.8 points per game. "Last week was unique with Max being banged up. He missed the entire bye week (with shoulder soreness) but he threw the ball extremely well last week in practice, looked very good… So, you know, we're in a bit of a quandary right now with what to do.
"I think we're going to try to give it to one person, give him the reps and see what he can do. I think we need to do that."
But will that be Smith or Whitlow?
If it's anything like the spring and summer, Big Blue Nation may not get an answer. The staff could elect to keep it quiet in an attempt to prevent an opponent from focusing its defensive preparation on one style, although publicly Stoops maintains that it's just a simple matter of not knowing.
"It has not been clear-cut at this point," Stoops said. "It would be reckless for us to name one guy at this point because nobody has taken the job, and we're going to evaluate it this week and see where we're at."
Both players are sophomores with similar experience now early in their UK careers. Smith has the higher passer rating this season (142.7 to 122.5) but Whitlow is completing a higher percentage (66 to 58) of his passes.
The knock against Whitlow is the lack of downfield completions. He is averaging only 6.4 yards per passing attempt and has thrown only one touchdown pass in 50 throws. But he has given the Cats a running threat at the position with 169 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Stoops says he doesn't care how the production occurs, he just wants one of the players to step forward and take command of the job.
"I think we need one of these guys to take the reins and lead our team," he added.
Asked what the key factor in the ongoing battle will be, Stoops said: "Consistency. Just playing. We will tailor our offense to do whatever we have to do to help us move the ball and win games. We just need the best player to come forward and be consistent and give us a chance to win."
Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC) travels to No. 13 South Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday to face the Gamecocks and national player of the year candidate Jadeveon Clowney at defensive end, which won't make the Cats' quarterback job any easier.
"Another great challenge," Stoops said.
Kentucky ran only 47 offensive plays against Florida. A typical college team will get an average of 70 plays in a game. The Cats went 1-for-8 on third-down conversions, not executing one successfully until the 4:50 mark of the third quarter. UK has converted only 23 percent on the season.
"We've got to execute routine plays," Stoops said. "We've got to do a better job."