LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky football head coach Joker Phillips said after practice Thursday that sophomore starting quarterback Maxwell Smith threw in practice and will be ready to play Saturday against No. 6 South Carolina. Kickoff for the game is set for 7 p.m. ET at Commonwealth Stadium and can be seen on ESPN2.
Smith, who did not play last week against Florida due to an AC joint injury in his shoulder, practiced all three days this week, including scheduled throwing practices on Tuesday and Thursday. Smith said Wednesday after practice that his shoulder felt fine and he was anxious to get back on the field Saturday. Phillips said Smith “threw the ball well” Thursday in practice.
“Last week I didn’t know what the effects would be if he got hit and injured again,” Phillips said about Smith not playing. “That is not the case this week. He is a lot healthier than he was last week so therefore he will play.”
Smith has played well for Kentucky this season, completing over 68 percent of his passes (102-149) for 966 yards and eight touchdowns. Smith ranks top 10 nationally in both completions per game (34.0) and passing yards per game (322.0).
Switching gears to defense, Phillips continued to praise the efforts of three true freshman cornerbacks in J.D. Harmon, Fred Tiller and Cody Quinn. All three saw action last week against Florida and played aggressive, according to Phillips. The head coach said due to the injury of safety Ashely Lowery and the play of the young corners, senior defensive back Martavius Neloms, who had been playing corner, took snaps this week at safety to provide more depth there.
“You saw a lot of young guys in the back end challenging receivers and that is the thing that stood out to me last week,” Phillips said. “Guys like Fred Tiller, Cody Quinn and J.D. Harmon were challenging guys and that is what you want to do. Being a defensive back, you are going to get beat, that is just a matter of when and where. The thing you have to do is win your share. And the thing I saw was that those guys more won than their share of opportunities.”
Phillips has been impressed with the play of UK’s youth this season overall, especially defensively, mentioning true freshman linebackers Khalid Henderson and Pancho Thomas and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Farrington Huguenin.
“At the second level, those two young freshman linebackers (Henderson and Thomas) made some plays for us and will continue to get better,” Phillips said. “Farrington Huguenin is a freshman also that continues to get better. The thing we have to do is keep improving as much as we possibly can. That is the ideal of us getting a chance to play again this weekend to see how much we have improved each week and see how much we can improve this week especially with a young team.”
Phillips said he understands that as Kentucky improves so do the teams that make up the final eight games on the schedule. But Phillips said that thought has to be removed and the team needs to worry just about getting Kentucky better.
“This is a grown man’s league and we can improve but everybody else is improving, too, with some older guys,” Phillips said. “The thing we have to do is continue to see how much we can improve and get this football team better. They are trying to do the same thing and we have to try to match them.”
In other injury news from Thursday, Phillips said that senior tailback CoShik Williams is out after re-aggravating an injury and that Lowery is doubtful. Defensive lineman Mister Cobble, who did not make the trip to Florida last weekend, is available but didn’t get much work or conditioning this week, according to Phillips.