Last updated: June 09. 2014 5:05PM - 212 Views
Ira D. Combs Tri State Sports Media



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If I’ve learned one thing the past 10 to 12 years covering college football as a member of the media in contrast to the previous 35 years as a traditional sports fan, it’s that you better have a special talent at quarterback or you can expect to end each Saturday on the south side of the final score—especially if you play a large portion of your schedule in Ole Dixie like UK does.


Yes, that old time honored theory that if you expect to be successful in the SEC you better be able to run the football and stop the run still holds some merit each Saturday, but if you don’t have a special pure physical talent at quarterback you are probably going to end up very frustrated as a coach at the end of the day. It also helps to have a special mental capacity in your QB as well, but it is a must this day and age for your QB to have a talented throwing arm and or quick athletic legs and feet, which give you the ability to change direction going full speed yet still with great balance.


Big athletic defensive lineman are still important to defenses, but as each year goes by I see more of them chasing and not catching quarterbacks in the spread option variations of today’s offensive schemes. They are struggling as well to be quick enough to get to the quarterbacks in the quick release pass oriented air raid offenses.


In my humble opinion, with all of UK’s struggles in football the last five years, the most constantly inconsistent position that’s hurt the most has been at quarterback. It’s plain and simple to me—if you don’t have a special talent there it will get a coach fired quicker than anything short of NCAA rules violations.


Just ask Joker Phillips.


It appears Phillips (who was the primary recruiter) evidently went brain dead in the evaluation process when he went north to Indianapolis to evaluate what started out being a 5-star, blue chip Morgan Newton, but ended up being an inept falling fast 3-star by the time he entered the college scene, according to most recruiting services. Turns out Newton had slow and lethargic feet and legs, plus a right arm that had the accuracy of Tim Robbins in the movie “Bull Durham.”


Now, Kentucky’s latest candidate to hopefully revive ”Bear” Bryant type gridiron glory to the Commonwealth, Mark Stoops, has what appears to be three healthy QB candidates to pin his hopes on this fall. As the spring session ended it appeared the No. 1 candidate was 6-foot-5 RS sophomore Patrick Towles from Kentucky high school powerhouse Ft. Thomas Highlands, who entered college three years ago as a somewhat highly coveted 4-star QB by most recruiting gurus. The No. 2 man on most UK football followers depth chart was RS freshman Reese Phillips, who entered UK last fall as a true freshman with very modest accolades as a 3-star QB. The newest candidate to the UK QB party is northern Kentucky’s latest passing phenom 6-foot-5 incoming freshman Drew Barker from Conner High School, who Stoops and Brown coaxed away from the Ole Ball Coach Steve Spurrier down at South Carolina. Barker did enter college back in January, and has one spring practice behind him so he won’t be oblivious to everything this August, but to put him under center this fall could cause a back slide in his otherwise positive progression so far.


The only other QB candidate at UK hasn’t been talked about in recent days, yet, he has more game experience than all the other candidates combined and much of it is impressive, I might add. This would be 6-foot-2 junior Maxwell Smith. The California native had surgery prior to spring ball in January and didn’t participate in spring drills because of it, but when or if his arm and legs are 100 percent again he may spring back into the QB picture.


So there you have it, one RS sophomore who has yet to show any consistency in his game, two extremely green freshmen, and a junior who has been impressive in the passing game at times but simply can’t stay healthy.


Is there a solid pick of the litter QB in this year’s candidates? Only time will tell. But I did like what I saw in the new arsenal of UK running backs in the spring game, and if there is one thing that will aid a pass happy air raid type offense it would be a quality running game.


As we near the 2014 season this is what I fear most, UK has a proven offensive coordinator who excels in teaching the spread air raid passing game type offense, but after watching the spring game it appears to me the position with the most quality Division 1 talent is at running back. Which brings another angle to the table for the 2014 season: UK has the most talented high school running back in the nation just 20 miles down the road at Madison Southern High School. So, if you’re Mark Stoops and Neal Brown, do you continue on with the pass oriented development of your air raid offense or do you sacrifice some of the passing game and give your running backs more touches to prove to your No. 1 recruiting target that there is a major role for him in the UK air raid version?


Think back to the spring game when everyone in the stands and press box at halftime was wondering what happened to the air raid offense. The pass-run ratio was almost 50–50 by games end, and early on it was 60–40 run plays over pass plays.


I took one look down on the sidelines during the Blue–White scrimmage and it hit me square in the face. Stoops and Brown were sending the first of many game-day messages to one Damieon Harris, who was walking up and down the sideline with each play, and that is not to worry about opportunities to tote the mail in our air raid—you will have plenty.


But at the end of the day, if there isn’t talent at the quarterback position we may be back to facing eight and nine man defensive lines.


Old School Wildcats Inducted Into KHSAA Hall Of Fame Class Of 2015


Congratulations to former UK Assistant Coach Dickie Parsons, former UK QB Freddie Maggard, and former UK DE Dennis Johnson for being inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place during next spring’s Whitaker Bank KHSAA Sweet 16 Boys’ Basketball Tournament. The site of the induction ceremonies will be at the Lexington Convention Center. All of the inductees will be recognized between semi-final games on Saturday night at the Sweet 16.


Parsons was the second unique multi-sports star at Harlan High School, excelling in football, basketball, and baseball, following in the footsteps of fellow Harlan legend “Wah Wah” Jones. Maggard was another Harlan County legend who excelled in football at old Cumberland High School and went on to have a solid career for Jerry Claiborne at UK. Johnson had a stellar high school football career at old Harrodsburg High School playing for his father Alvis Johnson, and later went on star at UK under Hal Mumme and Guy Morris .


You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK football and basketball, as well as KHSAA football and basketball .

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