Joker Phillips says Jalen Whitlow will get the first snaps at quarterback against Mississippi State, but Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen says he expects Patrick Towles to be Kentucky's "guy" at quarterback.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen says he'll prepare his team for both of Kentucky's freshmen quarterbacks, but he suspects that Patrick Towles is the QB the Cats are planning to stick with going forward.
UK head coach Joker Phillips says that Jalen Whitlow, who came off the bench last week to fill in for the injured Maxwell Smith, will get the first snaps of the game.
“Time to go, we are going to throw them out there and see what they can do,” Phillips said. “Jalen will run out there first but it is really not a starter. It’s Whitlow or Towles. Jalen will run out there first but it is not really that he is starting. I guess you guys would deem it as a starter, but it is more a slash.”
Phillips said coming off the field Thursday after practice he asked Towles if he was ready for Saturday. Phillips said the native of Ft. Thomas, Ky., told him he wanted the game to be in two hours.
“You like that,” Phillips said. “I don’t want them to try to hide behind anything because you are going to be nervous, I don’t care how you spin it. You are going to be nervous the first time you run out on the field. But, he (Towles) is a confident guy and has a lot of confidence in his ability. We are going to throw him out there and see what happens.”
It is no secret that Kentucky has been bit by the injury bug as of late with the injuries to Smith, safety Dakotah Tyler, starting tailback CoShik Williams and several others. But that hasn’t hurt the team’s attitude, according to Phillips, who said Thursday that practices this week and all season have been energized.
“I think the attitude has been great, we have never had, since I’ve been here, to prod them and get them going,” Phillips said. “Everyone has always been upbeat and they came out here with a lot of juice in practice. The thing we have to do is carry it from the practice fields to the game field.”
One of the aces in the hole for Phillips and Kentucky is offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, who has dealt with having to fill a starting quarterback position with a true freshman before. Phillips said Thursday that Sanders’ ability to relate to the players and the trust they players have in him is a huge part of the collective success.
“Randy has an ability to communicate with those guys and those guys really like how he interacts with them on and off the field,” Phillips said. “He is able to spend a lot of time with them in the meeting rooms. He gets more meeting time than most coaches because during special teams (meetings) he is in meetings (with the quarterbacks) and during special teams walkthrough he is in meetings (with the quarterbacks). They get a lot more meeting time than most. They get a little bit closer to him and it’s only four guys in there so he is able to get closer to them. They trust him and he has done a really good job of developing a lot of different quarterbacks. Look at Matt Roark, he got him ready in three days. That was one of the more nervous weeks that we have probably had around here with a guy that had never taken a snap from center. He does a really good job of developing quarterbacks and has a lot of experience.”
Phillips said another helpful piece for the young quarterbacks is the support staff around the offense in senior center Matt Smith, senior guard Larry Warford and several veteran wide receivers. Phillips said the relationship between the quarterbacks and the wide receivers is especially critical.
“Definitely helps when you got those guys,” Phillips said about UK’s leadership offensively when transitioning young quarterbacks. “I told the wide receivers Tuesday that it is their job to make the quarterback comfortable and feel better about what they are doing. If I was those guys I would get with them and watch tape with them and I think some of them have done it. Those freshman quarterbacks have definitely been over here a lot more.”
On the injury front, Phillips said that linebacker Miles Simpson practiced Thursday and will be reevaluated Friday to determine his status although Phillips expects him to be with the ones. Redshirt linebacker Josh Forrest is questionable along with backup Kory Brown. Phillips said sophomore Ashely Lowery practiced more at the linebacker/safety position this week because of Martavius Neloms getting snaps at safety.
Good news was that junior defensive lineman Mister Cobble had a good week at practice and will start on Saturday, according to Phillips. The head coach also said that team doctors said Maxwell Smith’s surgery went well. Phillips said no timetable was made on his return.
Three Different QB Starters for First Time Since 1979: Assuming Jalen Whitlow or Patrick Towles takes the first offensive snap of Saturday’s game, this appears to be the first time since 1979 that Kentucky has started three different quarterbacks in three consecutive games, following Morgan Newton at Florida and Maxwell Smith vs. South Carolina.
Note that official start charts are available only since 1993, but this conclusion was made based on game statistics and play-by-plays. In ’79, Mike Shutt, Randy Jenkins and Juan Portela appeared to be the starting QBs in consecutive games against Indiana, Maryland and West Virginia, respectively.
Sanders Has Juggled Quarterbacks Since 2008: Coach Joker Phillips was asked today about the ability of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders to deal with changes in quarterback situations, which Sanders has had to do during the last five seasons. Sanders came to UK in 2006, during the midst of Andre’ Woodson starting every game at QB from 2005-07 but since then, UK has had at least two starting quarterbacks each season. Here’s a list:
2008 – Mike Hartline started first eight games, Randall Cobb next four, then Hartline in UK’s win in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl
2009 – Hartline started first five games, Morgan Newton the final eight (note that Will Fidler also saw signification action, as did Cobb as a “WildCobb” formation QB)
2010 – Hartline first 11 games, Newton the last game (note that Cobb continued to see significant appearances as the WildCobb QB)
2011 – Newton started first eight games, Maxwell Smith the next three, then Matt Roark in the win over Tennessee
2012 – Smith started three games, Newton one, Smith again for one, this week Jalen Whitlow/Patrick Towles