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.