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Anthony White: Give backup quarterbacks a chance if Sawyer Smith is not healthy

Walker Wood (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Every week on WLAP’s Sunday Morning Sports with former Kentucky football running back Anthony White is a learning lesson for me. I still think he was the best dual-threat back — running and receiving — I have seen at Kentucky, so when he talks, I listen.

A week after UK laid an egg at South Carolina due in large part to quarterback Sawyer Smith being ineffective because of the injuries he had, White was still upset that nothing was done until the very end to try and give the offense a chance to succeed.

He pointed out he was a backup before he got his chance to play at UK — and then made the most of it.

“This is not a run of the mill school. This is the SEC. We have not fallen that far that you cannot manage this program without a backup option,” White said. “I was the fourth or fifth running back in ’96 when they played everybody except me before I got my chance.

“If I am on the roster, give me a chance. Unless a starter can give you 100 percent of what backup can, then put the backup in and see what he can do.”

Kentucky didn’t do that at South Carolina. Backup Walker Wood did warm up a couple of times but Smith — who was hurt so bad that he didn’t throw a ball all last week — stayed in until the end when receiver Lynn Bowden took over at quarterback.

White know Smith was “obviously” hurt. So did UK players. So did South Carolina defenders.

White’s feeling was that a quarterback might hand off 60 percent of the time. But if that’s all he can do, defenses are going to show no respect.

Speculation was that Wood, a third-year player, is not healthy either after three surgeries in the last three years. Speculation is that true freshman Amani Gilmore doesn’t know the offense. White’s speculation is that if Gilmore just knows three or four routes, why not let him play where he could throw or run when he’s not handing off since Smith was physically unable to throw accurately or run.

“If you are not going to let him (Gilmore) be him, there’s no need to put him back there,” White said. “If the offensive plan is to run the ball and move the chains, get somebody in who can take a three-step drop and hit throws for five to eight yards. You don’t need somebody to make a five-step drop and make reads he can’t do yet. Take three steps and nobody can hit him in the mouth that quick.

“It’s a simple formula to be competitive, get first downs and get the defense off the field so much. You just need a quarterback who can throw the hitch, fade or slant. I am sure we have a quarterback who can take three steps and give him simple reads to make.”

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops will update Smith’s physical status Monday and likely will indicate Bowden could be the quarterback against Arkansas Saturday night in a must-win game for UK. The Cats are 2-3 and lose this game and the one at Georgia and suddenly UK is 2-5 and in danger of not being bowl eligible.

“If we don’t win this game, I might have to change my mind about this program,” White said. “If we don’t make a bowl game, that will be really bad.”

Yes it would but if the Cats don’t win Saturday it could certainly happen and that’s why White — and others — are so passionate about hoping UK has a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C for quarterback play in this game.

3 comments

  1. Frankly, we’re lucky Walker Wood is still on campus, in my opinion. I appreciate his patience and forgiveness.

  2. White is right. I been saying the same thing. Wood, or even Gilmore should have been given the call. At least as late in the game as it was. The game was already out of reach when they used Bowden to direct a meaningless TD. Just made them (certain UK coaches) appear somewhat in control of a complete disaster.

    That game at USC last Sat night hurt Stoops and this program big time, and a lot of people watched it. You just can’t play like that in this league and get much support anywhere. If UK plays like that against this Ark team at home, and gets another loss on their record in the SEC, it could very well be the end of a once promising season, and it would prove all the experts right who predicted that UK would falter in 2019. If you love UK football, that loss last week hurt deeply. And not so much the loss, just the play, and playing a beat up ineffective QB until it was too late. I really lay the blame at the feet of this UK coaching staff.

  3. We all knew that @adotwhite was more than just another pretty face in sports.

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