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Bye week has Cats refocused before MSU trip

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Offensive coordinator Neal Brown

With just three days before Kentucky's game at Mississippi State, the Wildcats practiced on Monday like they would on a Wednesday before a regular Saturday game.

UK's bye last week allowed the Cats to shift their preparation ahead by two days, but more importantly gave them an opportunity to heal, and not just physically speaking.

"I think the bye came at a good time," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "We were a little banged-up coming out of that Alabama game for sure. It was really a culmination of four consecutive tough weeks. But I think as much mentally as physical, also. Our guys got a chance to catch their breath and relax a little bit and kind of get refocused."

The coaching staff hasn't reported many difficulties in adjusting this week's schedule. In fact, Brown likes the idea of playing a midweek game.

"Once you get your clock set it's not too difficult," Brown said. "Now, it's hard on a short week, when you play on Saturday and go to Thursday. But this sets up nice for us, because you got the bye week before and you got a couple extra days after it. I like them. You're one of the only shows going to play that primetime game. I think it's exciting for our kids."

The Cats, however, aren't getting too carried away with the excitement of playing with the eyes of college football world on them.

"We're treating it just like any other game coming in," quarterback Maxwell Smith said. "We're working as hard as we can this week, but we all know and we've been told it's a Thursday game. It's the only game on television, so we gotta showcase ourselves and we gotta play much better than we have been."

Smith was listed as the starter at quarterback on UK's depth chart released Monday and has been getting snaps accordingly, though Jalen Whitlow has returned to practice.

"Maxwell's been getting all the starter's reps," Brown said. "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."

UK is preparing under the assumption that Whitlow will be available, but will adjust his package based on his health. If the last two days are any indication, he could be close to full speed.

"He's progressed really each day," Brown said. "Moved around probably a little better today than he did yesterday, and so I think he's got a chance."

Other than having one of the team's best athletes available, Whitlow's improving health is good news on another front as well because the staff would like to redshirt both Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips.

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