October 23, 2013 11:17:25 PM
STARKVILLE -- Kentucky is forced to go back to its backup option at quarterback.
Even though the Wildcats coaching staff has seen physical improvement with quarterback Jalen Whitlow, the plan is to primarily play Maxwell Smith the majority of snaps Thursday night at Mississippi State (6:30 p.m., ESPN).
"He's getting better," UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said of Whitlow. "He's progressed really each day. Moved around probably a little better today than he did yesterday. Really didn't know until probably yesterday what Jalen's status was gonna be but Maxwell's been getting those starter's reps and Jalen's been getting the backup reps."
"I think it's no secret any time you're playing a team that's struggled a little bit like we have ... they're going to want to get off to a fast start and put a dagger in us early," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "We have to go out and offset that and play and execute well to start the game."
Kentucky's "Air Raid" offense is averaging 352.3 yards per game and has a nice pass/run balance, completing 60.1 percent of passes while averaging 4.7 yards per rushing attempt. Kentucky as forced to going back to Smith against Alabama after Whitlow missed a majority of the game with an injury. Smith came off the bench to play the rest of the game for the Wildcats in a tough situation for the sophomore, who did not receive very many first- team reps in practice during the week. Smith finished 7-for-16 for 76 yards and a touchdown against one of the best defenses in the nation. Smith has thrown for 710 yards and five touchdowns. The sophomore ranks eighth in the SEC in pass- ing efficiency this season and also sits 12th in the league in passing yards per game and 13th in the SEC in total offense.
"I think a lot of times when you watch them, they don't run a different offense when a different quarterback's in the game," Mullen said. "You look at Kentucky's quarterback situation, I think it's very similar to our situation, we don't run a different scheme when we put another quarterback in. 80 percent to 90 percent is going to be about the same. Then there's going to be a little bit different flavor, because one guy's strengths are a little different than the other guy's strengths."
n SEC will look to change targeting rule in 2014: The Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive will push to change one key part of the new targeting rules.
SEC head of officials Steve Shaw informed the media during a rare appearance during the league's media teleconference that Slive will urge a change to the automatic, non-reversible 15-yard penalty that comes after a flag for targeting. In the same point, Shaw believed the rule is being enforced properly as intended.
"Even our commissioner has serious reservations about the penalty philosophy around targeting fouls when they're overturned," Shaw said. "He and I have talked, he's challenged me, and together we're going to work with the rules committee to revisit the penalty if a disqualification is overturned for targeting."
Shaw also pointed out he has seen proper player reaction to a hit the officials are trying to eliminate from the game.
"We've actually seen player's reaction change on these types (of) hits," Shaw said. "Last year we saw a big hit like this and the player would be chest-bumping and high fiving his teammates. Now it's almost: Uh oh, hands on the helmet, or whatever. So I think the players are getting it."
Shaw also pointed out the change can't happen until after the 2013 season and it will have to be the league head coaches who make the change official. Shaw pointed out that the football rules committee is made up of coaches, which was also his way of pointing out that coaches now complaining about the rule were the ones who instituted it.
"The only people that get a vote on the rules committee are coaches," Shaw said. "Whether I like it or not the rulebook says when in question it's a foul. I've heard the term err on the side of safety. I don't want us to err. I want to make sure we're clear on this call. We can't guess."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.