Kentucky had a quarterback plan when the first game against Louisville kicked off this season. Sophomore Maxwell Smith was the clear cut starter, Jalen Whitlow and Morgan Newton were the back-ups the coaching staff intended to use in case of injury, and Patrick Towles was lined up to redshirt his freshman season as the fourth quarterback on the depth chart. At the end of the season, had everything gone according to plan, Max Smith would have 2 years of eligibility remaining and Patrick Towles would still have all 4 years still available. The plan went awry quickly as a season plagued with injuries began to unfold with each passing week. First it was Max Smith’s season-ending ankle injury. Morgan Newton was then given the keys to the offense against Florida in the Swamp. We all remember how that turned out. Before the move was officially made, it was obvious that Morgan Newton as a quarterback in the SEC was not going to be a good fit, and certainly wasn’t going to be the answer moving forward. Jalen Whitlow stepped in, and to his credit, showed signs that he could work through the kinks and newness of the situation as a freshman and still be a formidable quarterback for Kentucky. Without Smith and with the realization that Newton was not going to be a good option, the coaching staff turned to Patrick Towles as an option as well.
The coaching staff made the decision to implement both young quarterbacks into the offensive scheme for Kentucky. Even if they hadn’t decided to use Towles as more than just an “emergency back-up option,” he was going to have to step up in the event that Whitlow– a mobile quarterback who takes some hits with the way he plays– went down or had to miss a series.
Even with the injuries piling up, the use of Patrick Towles and his medical clearance following the injury solidified the burning of his redshirt season.
Without knowing how the coaching situation will be sorted out at the end of the season, this much is certain: whoever is the coach of next year’s team will have an interesting quarterback situation facing them. Assuming Max Smith receives a medical-hardship redshirt, Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles will all enter the spring season with 3 years of eligibility remaining. All three have significant upside and have at the very least, showed signs that they can be the answer moving forward for the future of this program. Max Smith has the most experience, and seems to fit the more traditional quarterback mold. Smith was also moving the offense very well before he was injured. Jalen Whitlow is not as conventional as Max Smith, but continues to gain experience and will likely enter the off-season as the quarterback who started the most games for Kentucky this season, playing the most minutes and taking the most snaps. Patrick Towles, who by all accounts was behind both Whitlow and Smith all season long on the depth chart, has long been considered the “future” of this Kentucky program following a successful high school career, especially among a portion of the fan base. Towles is the kind of young quarterback that a new coach might look at and say to himself, “Whatever I’m going to do here, he’s going to be what I hang my hat on.” The problem is, all three could be the answer when it comes to what next year’s coach (whether it’s Joker Phillips or not) wants to hang their hat on moving forward.
All three guys appear to be in the position to have 3 years of eligibility left. All three bring something different to the table, yet all want to be the quarterback for this program for the next 3 years. That’s quite the build up of talent, who all might essentially be in the same class with 3 years remaining.
Which quarterback do you think has the advantage heading into next season? Or is it a 3-way quarterback competition? Is there any way all 3 stay at Kentucky?