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Offense steps up at Tuesday scrimmage; QB race down to Smith, Whitlow

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Head coach Mark Stoops



Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot




With Kentucky's season opener versus Western Kentucky University now less than two weeks away, Mark Stoops shifted around the Wildcats' fall camp schedule on Tuesday.

Just three days removed from the first scrimmage of fall camp, Stoops brought his team into Commonwealth Stadium for another competitive session.  In a reversal from Saturday's action, it was the offense that had its way during the afternoon scrimmage.

"I just felt the need to get out here," Stoops said. "Much better day. The offense executed very well, had great enthusiasm. They executed well, did some really good things."

The defense, however, did not perform as well as it had in recent days. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said the unit's execution and tackling was not up to par and did not force turnovers as it did just a few days ago.

"The good thing about this camp is it's gone back and forth," Eliot said. "There's been the back and forth, back and forth. The last few days, we played well and we did some good things on defense and then the great thing about this game is you can be humbled in a minute."

On the other hand, Stoops was "encouraged" by the way the offense responded following such a turnaround. Leading the way were quarterbacks Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow. Stoops confirmed on Tuesday that the sophomores are the last two quarterbacks standing in the race to start against WKU.

"We have narrowed it to two and I think both of those guys will play in the first game," Stoops said. "I know both of those guys will play in the first game. I don't know who's going to start."

With Smith and Whitlow emerging, Patrick Towles moves to No. 3 on the depth chart. Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown have already discussed the decision with Towles, who responded to the news well.

"Patrick has been very good, has continued to work extremely hard," Stoops said. "He's got as much talent as any quarterback we have on campus, but it's just a matter of letting him grow into the situation a little bit. And he's open to the idea, if the opportunity presents itself, to redshirt."

Other than the quarterbacks, UK was without a few players at the scrimmage. Defensive end Za'Darius Smith, cornerback Cody Quinn and center Zach Myers sat out with lingering ankle injuries, while the coaches held out cornerback Nate Willis. Willis is less than a week removed from arriving on campus and Eliot said his absence was just a matter of the coaches bringing him along slowly.

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