With no Terry Wilson in the lineup for the remainder of the 2019 season, Kentucky is now turning to grad transfer Sawyer Smith who started seven games for Troy last season and recorded a 5-2 record. As a recruit, the low three-star prospect was listed as a dual-threat quarterback who flipped his commitment from UCF to Troy to play for Neal Brown. In his playing time, he has proven to be a very accurate deep ball passer.
With the Florida native taking over the reigns we could see a change in how Kentucky attacks opposing defenses. Similar to 2016, you could see UK leaning on a junior and freshman in the backfield while they use their somewhat mobile quarterback’s arm to keep the defense honest and weekly taking multiple deep shots to create big plays.
On this week’s Inside The Play, we’ll take a look back at Sawyer Smith’s first pass as a Kentucky Wildcat. It did not take long for the Big Blue Nation to see Smith’s ability to stretch the defense and accurately deliver a vertical shot that gave his receiver a chance to make a play on the football.
On a third and short just shy of midfield, UK comes out in a 3×1 formation with 10 personnel (one running back, four wide receivers). On the strong side of the formation, UK is in a trips formation with Josh Ali at the Z receiver spot on the outside, Allen Dailey, Jr. right next to him, and Lynn Bowden, Jr. lined up on the hash. In the boundary, Ahmad Wagner is the X receiver. Pre-snap, EMU is showing a blitz look with six defenders in the box and the free safety lined just nine yards off the ball. Automatically that means Kentucky has an isolation situation situation with Ahmad Wagner. There’s not enough space for the safety to recover.
After the snap comes a Y stick passing concept that is in every playbook in college and the NFL.
The two outside receivers run what is called an outside release and is essentially a fade route. Allen Dailey, Jr. runs a quick out route and Lynn Bowden, Jr. is this concept’s number one target on the stick route. However, due to the pre-snap read by Sawyer Smith, Kentucky decides to give their 6-foot-5, 234-pound receiver a shot at a 50-50 ball in man coverage. UK’s new quarterback puts it where his receiver has a chance to make the play on the football.
There’s no one even remotely close to Wagner and the boundary corner when the ball is delivered. Smith does a great job playing to Wagner’s strengths by allowing him to win a jump ball scenario. Despite the pass interference call, the former Iowa hooper makes the grab, breaks a tackle, and scores his first collegiate touchdown to give Kentucky a three-possession lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. These are the kind of throws we can expect from Sawyer Smith moving forward.
In the offense, you are still going to see Kentucky run the majority of the same plays. This will remain a run first offense with a ton of RPOs mixed in and a couple deep posts shots taken a few times per game. However, you could seem some more accurate passes thrown in the vertical game.
With Terry Wilson at quarterback, we saw the dual-threat have some issues with completing vertical passes down the field. What Smith does well is throw the ball with accuracy on fades and any other deep routes. Don’t be surprised if you see Kentucky start taking more shots down the field to take advantage of Smith’s strengths and the large size advantage Ahmad Wagner will have against every opposing corner he faces.