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Plan is to rest Sawyer Smith while evaluating Lynn Bowden, Walker Wood

Walker Wood has been waiting for a chance to play at UK. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

On his weekly radio show Monday night Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said his team’s open date comes at a good time to help get players healthy.

That certainly includes quarterback Sawyer Smith, who has started the last three games — all UK losses — after starter Terry Wilson went down in game two with a season-ending knee injury.

Stoops wouldn’t totally elaborate on what all was wrong with Smith. He called him “beat up” with a sore shoulder and wrist along with a lower body issue that Stoops would not offer any more information about.

“He will recover, hopefully, this week. We will definitely have to rest him, I would anticipate, all week. That’s the plan right now,” Stoops told show host Tom Leach.

Smith was obviously hurting at South Carolina from the start yet played almost the entire game in UK’s 24-7 loss before receiver turned quarterback Lynn Bowden led UK to a late touchdown. Stoops said looking back he should have pulled Smith sooner but said players also have to be honest with the coaches about pain level what they can or cannot do on the field.

Smith was 11 of 32 passing for 90 yards with no touchdowns and an interception against the Gamecocks and got sacked four times. The interception was the third straight game where Smith has turned the ball over on UK’s first possession.

Stoops said Smith was unlikely to attempt a pass until next week unless he improves dramatically.

No Smith means UK has “everything on the table” for quarterback during this week’s practice preparing for the Oct. 12 game with Arkansas. Bowden, a high school quarterback, is an option along with sophomore Walker Wood, who is in his third year at UK but has not played.

“They’ll both get a lot of reps, and we’ll go from there. Everything’s in play. We’ll see. It’s hard to tell how this week’s going to go, how Sawyer will heal up, how he’s feeling, how durable he’ll be in the next game,” Stoops said.

Stoops said after the South Carolina loss he had confidence in Wood, who has had two shoulder surgeries, in the last two plus years. However, he didn’t play him at South Carolina despite Smith’s struggles. Stoops said Monday that Wood is “fully healthy” now.

“It’s difficult for a quarterback to come back off two shoulder surgeries, but I love the kid. He works his tail off. He probably over works himself. There’s no doubt. He works extremely hard. He’s got a great attitude. He’s a great team player. If his number’s called, I’m sure he’s going to go in and give us everything he has,” Stoops said.

Kentucky’s offense needs a boost. The Cats are 11th in the SEC and 89th nationally in total offense with 213 yards per game. Kentucky has gone 28 of 76 passing in the last two games and has converted just three of its last 27 third-down tries.

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  1. Stoops should have rested Smith Saturday night long before he did. If he puts Bowden at QB against Ark, does he still return punts? Why don’t they just get Wood ready if they have any confidence in him at all. He has surely earned the right IMO.

  2. Wood should have already been “evaluated.”
    Has he not been preparing throughout the season?
    If Bowden can come in and replace Wood, that shows you right there that Hinshaw is not preparing these guys or they are giving scholarships to those that aren’t able to help the team.
    Haven’t been impressed with Hinshaw, at all.

  3. The more I think about this QB situation, the more concerned I become about the coaching staff’s commitment or ability to prepare players and have them ready to compete from the beginning of every game. This is an issue that is not new, and spans the entire Stoops Era I believe. Not having the players in the QB room all prepared to play when needed is confusing to me.

    The “Everything On The Table” thing, 5 games into a season, seems odd because I would think the right times for everything to be on the table would be the 8 month long off season that includes Spring ball, summer training, and August Camp.

  4. Wouldn’t we like to have Gunner right about now? Looks like he didn’t feel he would ever even have gotten a look. I am behind these Coaches, and I support them. I am concerned why they do stick with one guy so much. last year Gunner should have gotten at least mop up time. Seems we lose commits at QB easily also. With that said, I am still behind this team, and hoping for a 7-5 or at worst 6-6 year and a Bowl. Look out for next year!!!! GO CATS

    1. I agree Gene about being behind these coaches, and your goals for finishing this season.

      Nevertheless, the main criticisms of these coaches that I have heard for 6 to 7 years is failure to develop QB talent BEFORE the team needs it due to a debilitating injury to QB1, and the repeated occurrences of a team that does not seem ready, willing or able to engage the opponent when games begin.

      I sure would like both of these issues to get resolved in appropriate ways soon.

      1. That concern has led to backup quarterbacks transferring a lot because they don’t play and may feel neglected in practice

  5. Walker Wood will not be ready to start against Arkansas. It would be nice to see him play 3 or 4 series…a couple in the first half and a couple in the second, and see what he can do, but I think Bowden playing the wildcat position is the way to go against the Razorbacks. See what works and adjust the plan accordingly.

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