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Cats turn in solid Wednesday practice

LEXINGTON, KY. - Coach Mark Stoops was looking for more intensity and he said he saw it Wednesday afternoon as his team prepared to meet the Louisville Cardinals Saturday. Stoops called it a good day, cleaner than Tuesday.

In hot temperatures, UK turned in a solid, physical practice on Wednesday, continuing a theme from earlier in the week. Neal Brown thinks that has something to do with UK's first win of the season on Saturday.

"I think our guys are focused and I think anytime with young people when you start having a little bit of success, I think you can build off of it," the offensive coordinator said. "I think they've kind of seen the fruits of their labor last Saturday and we've had two good spirited workouts."

Much of UK's success on offense had to do with the two-quarterback rotation the Cats deployed to great effect against Miami (Ohio). After Jalen Whitlow played the first three quarters of the season opener and Maxwell Smith the fourth, the UK coaches hatched a plan to use the two sophomores even more interchangeably.

In UK's first series in its home opener, Smith and Whitlow rotated freely and even multiple times per series in some instances. Using the unconventional approach, Kentucky scored on its first five offensive possessions and rolled up 675 yards of total offense.

"We, again, you've also heard me say whatever we've got to do to put our players in a position to be successful, whatever we think can help us in any schematic advantage, anything we have to do to help us win, we're going to do," head coach Mark Stoops said.

Following the Wednesday session, Stoops and Brown gave some additional insight into the two-quarterback rotation, including the way Smith and Whitlow split reps at practice.

"Jalen really practices everything as the backup and Max has most of the game plan that he practices and then Jalen's got special things," Brown said. "We'll practice kind of rolling them in and out, so they were used to it by the time game time came on Saturday."

Brown admitted the system makes his job more challenging, but more so in the way he has to prepare than actually orchestrating the offense on game day.

"I can handle it," Brown said. "It just takes a little bit more preparation. Mentally, I have to be really in tune about who's in the football game as to what I'm calling. I probably get our game plans done earlier now just because, for me, I've gotta practice that rotation Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to get it down for Saturday."

All the switching may seem a possible impediment to the tempo with which Brown wants to play, but he's thought of that too. Smith and Whitlow only substitute for one another when the clock stops, whether that be on first downs, incomplete passes of changes of possession.

It's all worth it because of the effect it can have on a defense. With two quarterbacks possessing such complementary skill sets, opponents have to be ready for very different looks on any given play. However, any advantage gained is dependent on the Wildcats getting the job done.

"It does (affect the defense) with the speed at which we operate. ... I've often said that tempo can be effective if you're executing the right way," Stoops said.

As for the two quarterbacks, they're more than willing to split time, particularly if they have the same kind of success as last weekend. That's the right approach, because Brown doesn't know when he'll go back to one signal caller.

"It's kind of what it is right now," Brown said. "If one guy separates himself, then we'll play one. But right now I think the best opportunity to play well on offense and for us to win is kind of playing both those guys."


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