The most obvious chatter and attention surrounding the football team has been centered around the battle at the QB position that has been ongoing ever since Stoops took over as head coach. While Max Smith performed very well at times last year before being injured, a coaching change and a completely new offense has left the door open for someone, namely Jalen Whitlow, to take the starting spot from him when the season gets underway. There are strengths that give each quarterback a certain advantage as to why they should be the starter and those have been debated and talked about ad nauseam. What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not there will be real separation between those competing to be the starter before the opening kickoff against Western Kentucky on August 31.
Stoops and Brown both have said during fall camp that they are willing to let real-time game reps be part of the equation if it comes to that in deciding who should lead the offense for the season. While the growing consensus seems to be that Whitlow will be named the starter, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the coaching staff will put all of their eggs in his basket and not look back. There is always the possibility for early season struggles that can’t be seen in camp or practice, and with a new core of wide receivers with little to no experience, it will make the job of the starter that much more difficult. In other words, don’t be surprised if the first game is a chance for someone to catch up or take an ever firmer grasp on the starting job moving forward.
If it does come down to a QB battle that is decided by in-game reps, how much of a step back does that take the offense as a whole? It certainly changes the way the offense will flow because of the mobility that Whitlow brings to the table versus the more pocket presence that Smith presents (assuming the position comes down to those two). Second, the receivers will need every chance they can to get in sync with a starting quarterback and not knowing that going into the first game may affect their timing, a crucial part of the Air Raid offense. Finally, competition at the quarterback spot can grow into an issue that becomes bigger than the team and can threaten to be an early season distraction for a young team that needs to stay focused.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. It isn’t a bad thing to have two (or three) very capable quarterbacks that have the talent to be considered for the starting role going into the season. Getting actual game reps as part of the competition adds experience under their respective belts each and every snap, and you never know when the injury bug will bite, especially while playing the nation’s toughest schedule and the mid-season SEC gauntlet UK will face. While it would be nice to know who the unquestionable starter is before the first game, the coaches know what they are doing and can be trusted to make the best decision for their football team, regardless of what the fans or media think. As is par for the course this season, the fans will need to practice patience and trust that every decision made is building for the long-term success of the program.