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August 11, 2012

Young players shine, but QB battle still undecided after scrimmage

The first scrimmage is done, but the quarterback battle remains for the UK football team.

The Wildcats ran about 140 plays in a closed scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday afternoon, going full-speed and full-contact after nine days of practice. There are still about 20 practices to go before the season kicks off on Sept. 2, and plenty of questions to be answered by then.

Head coach Joker Phillips declined again to evaluate the quarterbacks after the scrimmage, preferring to wait until after he'd watched film to say if one player was ahead of the other. The coaches will watch film early on Saturday evening, then watch with the players later at night before reviewing it again on Sunday.

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders seemed to hint that sophomore Maxwell Smith and senior Morgan Newton were ahead of freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow as of Saturday, though.

"Max is doing a good job," Sanders said. "Morgan is working hard and doing pretty well but it's obvious that he's coming off of shoulder surgery and as I mentioned before we got started, anytime you miss six or seven months of throwing, it's going to affect you somewhat. He's still a work in progress coming back from that."

Newton is still building up strength in his throwing arm as he comes back from surgery for a turn labrum. Towles and Whitlow are still struggling as freshmen often do, Sanders said, with just over a week of practice behind them.

"They do some stupid things sometimes," Sanders said. "Boy, it's amazing. Sometimes they revert to things they did as a sophomore in high school."

There were also two interceptions, as linebacker Malcolm McDuffen returned his pick for a touchdown and cornerback Cartier Rice nearly did the same with his. Defensive coordinator Rick Minter graded his unit as a B- or a C+.

"We made plays, we made big plays," Minter said. "We gave up a few give plays so we cannot do that. We have to praise the positive, work against the negative and try to eliminate it because it's the big plays that will cost you."

Junior linebacker Avery Williamson had a forced fumble, and the offense had some other miscues, but Phillips was pleased with many of his young players. Freshmen running backs Justin Taylor and Dyshawn Mobley were impressive, among many others, he said.

"They do a really good job of moving the pile," Phillips said. "There's nothing there, and you get up and it's five yards or four yards."

Sophomore safety Glenn Faulkner was the only player on the injury report after the scrimmage. He sprained his ankle and may have suffered a more severe high ankle sprain, but more will be known about his status later.

Sophomore wide receiver Demarco Robinson was impressive in the punt return portion of practice, Phillips said. Redshirt freshman Daryl Collins also spent time returning punts.


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