By - Ira D. Combs
Director / Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
It's still really way to early to project or predict how the 2012 Kentucky football season will play out as far as post season , conference impact , or especially final record .
However , after observing UK sophomore QB Maxwell Smith in a couple brief appearances in late 2011 , the spring blue - white game , and two starting assignments the first two weeks of this season I'm sold on three things :
# 1 - The Morgan Newton era of UK football is over , if it ever actually got started .
# 2 - The Maxwell Smith era is officially underway and it looks brighter every time the ball is snapped .
# 3 - It appears the Patrick Towles era may be delayed a couple years .
Two games into the 2012 season , one on the road in an arch rivals back yard in a very hostile environment and the other a pressure cooker home opener with much more stress involved than a normal home opener would have because of the coaching staffs situation the young sophomore goes a combined 65 for 89 running up 634 yards posting (6) touchdowns and no interceptions in the process .
Oh yes , the above mentioned numbers were produced by Smith among 13 different receivers with five different receivers sharing in the six touchdowns .
What does all that mean ?
It means Smith throws a softer , more accurate , and catchable ball than Morgan Newton did and he has the ability to throw the quick outs , slants , post patterns , and when the offensive line provides him time and a receiver can stretch the field he can throw the deep ball as well . One must give kudos to Randy Sanders and those responsible for the scheming of the new no huddle and quick release passing game offense . It fits Smith and the youthful Wildcat OL to a tee and should provide them time in season to develop a respectable running game as well as other specialized plays for the growing young receiving corps .
The big question at this juncture in the infant 2012 season is , can the offensive line play well enough to keep Maxwell Smith healthy thru a grinding 12 game schedule with some of the elite defenses in college football fuming and throbbing across the line of scrimmage to get a shot at him every saturday every snap .
Make no mistake this offense and Smith himself will look stagnant at times and struggle on occasions but only because the competition will be upgraded as they enter SEC play and it will take time to adjust to that elite level speed of the game that the SEC displays .
Basically , the coaching staff appears to be buying time expecting the short passing game to serve as their running game until the offensive line matures into an experienced line across the line and not just one side of the line .
At the end of the day last saturday my thoughts were that this season may not be as brutal as many had originally thought .
But then don't forget my old time honored saying I've used for many years as I've followed Kentucky football .
It's always fallen under that category of ( UK football is never as bad as it appears on some saturdays but it's never gonna be as consistent and successful as it appears other saturdays either .
It will always fall under the category of interesting but the only consistent thing about UK football is that it always has been and always will be consistently inconsistent year in and year out .
That's just the lay of the land when your in "Hoops Crazy Kentucky" .
Is Pat Washington's Teaching Tactics More Valuable Than Tee Martins Recruiting ?
Senior WR LaRod King looks as slim and trim and confident as any receiver in the SEC . Gene McCaskill looks like , well , the Gene McCaskill we all saw as a freshman and Aaron Boyd has come out of his four year funk and looks like the second coming of Jerry Rice in blue catching 14 passes for 146 yards the first two games . If that's not eye opening enough the gridiron Cats two freshman ( Demarcus Sweat and Darryl Collins ) as well as sophomore Demarco Robinson appear to be more athletic and faster than any of the upperclassmen and all three youngsters have already displayed more consistency with their hands than the seniors ever did at the same point in their early careers .
Why has this all come to the forefront in 2012 ? Could it be their new position coach , the veteran SEC assistant Pat Washington who Joker Phillips brought on board at the end of 2011 just before the holiday break .
What else could it be , in the least it has to be brought into the conversation when discussing the emergence of the wide receiver position all of a sudden after (2) years of utter disaster and quite possibly costing the Cats a couple wins during that time span .
All that time in previous years that Joker Phillips and others inside the Wildcat football family was touting how important Tee Martin was to recruiting and UK football in general ......... turns out that old timer Pat Washington wise beyond the young Martin's years may possibly have given UK football the shot in the arm it needed when Martin up and left the Bluegrass for sunny California and the privilige of working for his own Vol Nation's favorite ex coach Lane "Little Hitler" Kiffin .
Getting Ready For The SEC Road and Southern Quizine
One more saturday of tail gaiting at Commonwealth Stadium then it's off to another season of SEC football across the south and some fine southern cooking on those cool breezy southern friday and saturday nights .
Since it is quite obvious by the size of my girth I've never passed a quality eating establishment in my travels across the SEC the last 40 plus years I've been ask by a few friends and loyal readers of this column to list my 10 favorite eating establishments across the SEC with an emphasis on barbeque and steaks .
So with a short period of idle thought and the keen smell of an old hound dog I'll list the ten that comes to mind first but I've never really had a bad meal south of Great American Ball Park :
# 1 - The Little Dooey - Starkville , Mississippi
# 2 - Three Little Pigs Barbeque - Columbia , South Carolina
# 3 - Dreamland Barbeque - Tuscaloosa , Alabama
# 4 - Butt Hutt - Athens , Georgia
# 5 - Moonlite Barbeque Inn - Owensboro , Ky.
# 6 - Archibald & Woodrow's - Tuscaloosa , Alabama
# 7 - Montgomery Inn - Ft. Thomas , Ky. (Boat House - Cincinnati)
# 8 - Terrell's Barbeque - Gainesville , Florida
# 9 - Voo Doo Barbeque & Grill - New Orleans , Louisiana
# 10 Tie - Calhoun's On The River - Knoxville , Tenn.
Dead End Barbeque - Knoxville , Tenn.