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Backups readying behind Newton

Maxwell Smith remembers every last detail about the last time he played in a football game. He even remembers the last time he got hit hard.

Maxwell Smith, with offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, hasn't played in a game since his last high school game on Nov. 19, 2009.

He has to think back a bit further than most freshmen. He graduated from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, Calif., in 2010 but deferred his enrollment at Kentucky until the winter of 2011 because the Cats’ 2010 signing class was full.

Not counting the Blue/White spring game—Smith doesn’t count it because he couldn’t get hit—the 6-4, 220-pounder hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 19, 2009.

“My last game was against Crenshaw, who was one of the top teams in the state and they lost to De La Salle in the state championship game,” Smith said. “That was the last time I played in a game unless you count the spring game a few months ago, but I don’t because I didn’t get hit. I got hit pretty good against Crenshaw.”

Smith’s team lost to Crenshaw 42-6.

Since then, he’s been working toward that next game. The half-year or so he spent in California between high school and college left him a bit bored; he tossed the ball whenever he could but mostly, he spent his time working at a UPS Store branch in Southern California. But he’s been better occupying his time since he got to Lexington; Smith, a drop-back passer, fully participated in spring practice and has been working with strength and conditioning coach Rock Oliver since then.

He’ll be ready if something happens to Morgan Newton, who Smith acknowledges has a comfortable hold on the No. 1 spot.

“I’m just working hard. If anything happens, I’ve got to be ready,” Smith said. “I can’t let the team down, the coaches down or the fans down. I have to be prepared. That’s what I’ve been trying to do since the minute I got here in January.”

Kentucky’s third-string quarterback, freshman Bookie Cobbins, offers a polarizing contrast from Smith. Cobbins is considerably smaller, listed at 6-foot-0 and 187 pounds. Smith said he models his game after Tom Brady and Sam Bradford; Cobbins is a dual-threat passer who said he compares himself to former Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. “But I like throwing it more than him,” Cobbins said.

Bookie Cobbins, left, studies plays with student assistant coach Andre Woodson at Fan Day on Saturday.

With both Newton and Smith ahead of Cobbins on the depth chart, his best chance to get on the field as a true freshman seems to be in a variation of the Wildcat package or in a similar change-of-pace package.

Cobbins said moving up the depth chart isn’t his first priority, even though it would be nice.

“I’m just going to use my talents and show the coaches what I got,” Cobbins said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can in camp and try to get better as fast as I can. Whatever happens and if I get to play, that’s great. But I just want to get better and show the coaches that I know how to get better.”

If everything goes to plan, Smith or Cobbins could have a shot at game time as soon as UK’s opener against Western Kentucky—in UK’s three blowout non-conference wins last season against Western Kentucky, Akron and Charleston Southern, both backup quarterbacks (Newton and Ryan Mossakowski, who has since transferred) got game time.

Smith doesn’t just want game time, though, even though he hasn’t had it in almost two years.

“I want to get in there and get smacked,” Smith said. “I’ll be nervous until I get smacked, but I know it’s going to happen at some point. That’ll relieve all of my nerves. My teammates keep talking about wanting to smack me. I say, ‘Do it, do it.’”

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