The Kentucky quarterback race is still on.
We know for sure we're down to two, Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow. We don't know for sure who's leading. We might know for sure that both will play against WKU.
Anyway, I wanted to take a look at how this quarterback competition has unwound over the course of six months, from the coaches' mouths themselves. So I put together a list of quotes, ranging from the first day of spring practice to the most recent day of fall camp, showing how much of a long and winding road this had been.
It's gone in basically three phases: feeling things out in even amounts in the spring, starting to establish a pecking order at the beginning of fall and starting to think that one guy was emerging, and then seemingly backing off that sentiment and re-affirming that it's still a fluid, ongoing competition.
So, take it away.
Mark Stoops, day one of spring practice: “We were equal with those guys. We are rotating them each drill just to be fair with those guys. All of them had their ups and downs. Each of them looked really good at times and at times, you know, they struggled just putting it all together, which you can understand.”
Neal Brown, day five: "They’ve had some goods and bads. There’s so much more on them than the rest of the guys. They’re having to process so much more. They’re working hard. ... I told y’all don’t waste your time asking this.”
Stoops, day six, on Whitlow: “I thought he’s been practicing very well. It’s hard for me to tell sometimes. I’m not even watching whose throwing until the end, unless something just grabs my eye. I’ll watch it all on film. But I’ve been very pleased with him. I thought he’s been doing a good job.”
Stoops, day six, on it being a three-man battle: “Oh, no question."
Stoops, after first spring scrimmage: “They looked good at times and looked bad at times. Again, that comes down to the players around them as well. Players have to make plays and the other ten guys around the quarterback, they need to be in position and doing the right things and making plays. So as far as individually for each quarterback, it’s still hard to pick it out because we’re so far off at certain positions.”
Brown, after first spring scrimmage: "All did some positives ... I’m not going to talk about those quarterbacks probably until after the spring game. How they’re doing and all that kind of stuff.”
Brown, after second spring scrimmage, on a timeline: “It will definitely go into the fall. In fall camp, you usually got four weeks. I’m not setting a deadline, this is just kind of my thought process. I like having two weeks to kind of see who you’re going to play with and two weeks to get prepared to play. It’s definitely going to go into those two weeks and maybe longer. I’d love for a guy to jump up and take it.”
Stoops, day nine: "I’ve said it over and over again and I still feel that way: The all have different strengths and they all can help us win.”
Brown, day nine: “We do some really good things, and there’s some things that are head scratchers. ... There’s some good and some bad. Really not much separation. Just when I think there is, the one I think is the bottom will have a good day. They’re coming along.”
Brown, after spring game, on Whitlow: “He’s done well, now. He really has. I think he’s come a long way as a passer. The ball is coming out of his hand nicely. (His running ability) helps. If it’s even, I think that helps. But at the end of the day, it comes down to making the decisions, who can be an accurate passer, and who can lead. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s going to come down to.”
Brown, after spring game: "You would hope that somebody would win it. That’s the thing: You would hope somebody goes out and wins the job. Each of them have shown some signs of being able to do that, but not on a consistent basis. None of the three have grabbed it every single day."
Brown, on what needs to happen over the summer: “The thing we’ve got to be better at is we’ve got to be more accurate passers. You saw several errant passes tonight, and I think a lot of it goes back to their feet, their lower-body mechanics. They’ve got to work tremendously had over the summer to get their lower-body mechanics in a position where they can be an accurate passer. They’ve got to do that.
Stoops, after spring game: “I think it’s very fair to say that Jalen (Whitlow) had the best spring game and did some awfully good things. With that being said, it’s still an open competition there.”
Stoops, at SEC Media Day: “We will make that decision when it’s clear. ... But why rush that situation if it’s not clear cut? That’s not fair to anybody. We want to make sure we make the right decision and we will make that decision when it’s clear cut. If it takes one day, it takes one day. If it takes a week, a couple weeks, or into the season. So I think those players have earned that right.”
Stoops, at SEC Media Day: "They’ve all done some very good things in the spring. We’re just going to have to continue to work through that process right now. If anybody emerges and just takes the reins and becomes the clear‑cut leader, we’ll name ‘em.”
Brown, at Louisville luncheon: “We’re going to give all three guys an opportunity to compete. I’m real eager to see how much they’ve improved since the spring football game, because we haven’t had an opportunity to coach them. The thing about all three of those guys: all three of them give us an opportunity to win and all (are) good guys."
Brown, at Louisville luncheon, on what QB needs: "Leadership skills (and) they have to be productive; they have to score. And I think they have to be really accurate passing.”
Stoops, at Media Day: “I think anybody would like to have one guy. But again you have to make the right choice and if it takes game reps, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Brown, at Media Day: “Maxwell (Smith), I think he has potential to be really accurate with the football. And he has been productive when he’s been healthy. Now, he has not been healthy a whole lot, which is an issue. But he’s been productive and he’s accurate with the football and he’s done it against good people. When you’re talking about Patrick (Towles), he’s got a strong arm and he’s a big kid that runs better than most people think and he’s got a big‑time arm talent. Talk about Jalen (Whitlow), he’s a playmaker, one of the better athletes on our football team and he makes plays. Another thing I like about Jalen is he got thrown into the fire and he doesn’t shun away and even though the end results didn’t show it, he got better as it went on last year. And then Reese (Phillips) has no fear. Reese Phillips, he went out, by far the biggest crowd he’s ever had to perform in front of in the spring game and performed admirably.”
Maxwell Smith, at Media Day: “Obviously, whoever the two guys that aren’t the guy – or three guys that aren’t the guy – they’re going to be upset. But I feel like if you have an understanding of how the game is played and if you watch film every day, then you can see, if you’re smart, if the guy did better than you or not. You know. So if someone happens to not win, they should understand that they probably got beat. That’s just how it’s going to be.”
Whitlow, at Media Day: "I hear quarterback competition everywhere I go. I’m just looking forward to it being over with. I go out to eat or whatever and somebody comes up to me asking, ‘How’s the quarterback competition going?’ It gets old, but it’s just part of the process right now.”
Stoops, on Smith and possibility of injury: "Absolutely we worry about injury. Just like last year, we know what can happen here with injuries, especially with quarterbacks, so we’ve gotta have a lot of guys ready. Again, right now it seems to be fine, but we’re being a little bit cautious with him and limiting some of his throws.”
Stoops, day one of fall camp: "They all look better right now. They look better in this first day from just watching it."
Stoops, day three: “They’re doing good. I’m sure it’s not easy on anybody when you’re rotating. ... It’s little bit difficult, for sure, when there’s three guys. But again, we need to be fair. They’re all good players. They all have different strengths. We’re confident that whoever is behind center will help us win some games.”
Stoops, day eight, on which QBs looked good: "There’s been a few. I can’t hint (that) to anybody. I can’t tell you that, I’m sorry. There has been some good ones at times, like I’ve said. Those guys have all done very well at times and been inconsistent at some.”
Stoops, day eight, on timeline: “We’re working towards it. Everybody is all anxious to it. You’ve got to remember, everything has been open. There have been equal reps to this point, but we’ve evaluated every snap going back to last spring. So everything – we’ve got all the information on who has done what and all that. ... But yeah, we’ve collected all this data and we’ve got an idea, sure, just like we do at all of our positions.”
Brown, day nine: “We’re getting closer. Nothing we’re going to talk about, but we’re getting closer. Getting some separation there, which I think is good, because I think anytime you get separation, that means some people are starting to play well, and that’s been a positive.”
Brown, day nine, on holding off on publicizing decision: “There’s a good chance. There’s a good chance. I don’t know. That’s going to be up to Coach Stoops. But I figure, why tell Western? Let them figure it out.”
Stoops, post-scrimmage: “Well, every time you start thinking you’re getting closer to making a decision, maybe some things go good or go bad with the other guys. I think we’ve been good and patient. Like I said, it’s not at a point where we’re getting antsy about it, but we’ll look at all the information, all the data and see if we have some player decisions. Then we can let them know and move forward.”
Brown, post-scrimmage: “There’s some ebb and flow to it. They’re all doing some positive things. ... But we’re getting closer to a decision. Obviously, this is one of the things that will go into the equation, along with all the spring. We’ve got to get centered on who we are as an offensive team."
Brown, day 14: "We gave two guys the majority of the reps today and we’ll continue with that. I think if one of them jumps up and takes it, then that will be our guys and if not, we’ll get used to playing two.”
Stoops, day 14, said they had narrowed the field to two: “We’re working through that right now. We’ll keep that in house here for a little bit. A starter has not been named, but we’re getting in order. ... Like I said, we have made some movement on the quarterback position. No starter has been named, but we’re narrowing that down. Just respect that for a couple more days. We’ll let you know what’s coming on. ... There’s two guys that are still in the race, and we’ll see where that shakes out. I think it’s going to be no surprise both of those guys deserve to play and will play.”
Stoops, after another fall scrimmage: "No, we haven't made a decision on the starter yet. We have narrowed it to two (Smith and Whitlow) and I think both of those guys will play in the first game; I know both of those guys will play in the first game. I don't know who's going to start. ... They did well. They did good. They had some ups and downs. It wasn't just a sieve like it was last spring at times. They had some good drives and some bad drives."