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Smith stepping up midway through Miami week

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Head coach Mark Stoops



When Mark Stoops and Neal Brown reviewed tape from Kentucky's season opener to make a decision on a starter at quarterback, they saw clearly that the loss by no means could be blamed entirely on Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow.

Nonetheless, a choice had to be made and they settled on Smith.

"It's not at all ever on the quarterback," Stoops said. "But he made less mistakes and he did some of the basic things that we're looking for correctly and distributed the ball where we needed to. So that was the big thing with helping us move the football."

Two days after Stoops released UK's week-two depth chart announcing the new starter, the Wildcats turned in a good Wednesday practice with Smith in his new role. UK began installing its third-down packages ahead of Saturday's matchup with Miami (Ohio), but more of the conversation centered on how Smith has emerged as a leader this week.

"It's hard to be a leader as a backup," Brown said. "You know, I think you can, but it's hard. Thought he did a good job during the game until he went in, giving energy and supporting his teammates on the sidelines. But I definitely agree with that, I think it's easier as a starter, no matter what position."

In the immediate aftermath of the WKU loss, Smith told reporters he wanted to step up in that department, regardless of his role. Smith's presence has been consistent throughout the fall, but he's calling on himself to do even more.

"I feel like the team sees me as a leader, but I think I have to take control of the team more often," Smith said.

But for Smith to be effective in helping guide the offense, he will rely heavily on his teammates.

"Other guys lead too," Smith said. "I'm not the only one. I think everybody on the offense has to kind of lead themselves so we can all lead each other in a way."

His new backup at quarterback is included in that group. Not only will Whitlow be there to help Smith on the sideline, but the athletic sophomore will also play in certain packages, Brown said on Wednesday. He's too talented to leave out of the game plan completely.

As was proven against WKU, UK looks different with Smith running the offense. However, it doesn't mean there's any kind of overhaul.

"Will we look different with Jalen at quarterback than with Max at quarterback?" Brown said. "Yes, yes we will. But does the base of the offense change? No. Maybe what I call does. But the offense doesn't."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown



Quarterback Maxwell Smith



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