Max Smith was the odds-on favorite to be named Kentucky’s 2013 starting quarterback entering the spring game, but those odds have since changed.
Jalen Whitlow, the freshman quarterback thrown into the fire last season when Smith went down, improved his stock Saturday night with a stellar performance in front of a packed Commonwealth Stadium. Whitlow was the game’s unofficial offensive MVP, having completed 17 of 28 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 49 yards on the ground on seven carries, although he could’ve gone for more if not for the imaginary tackle rule to protect the quarterbacks in spring practice.
After the game, Whitlow downplayed his jump in the quarterback race, saying all three quarterbacks played well but still have plenty of room for improvement. While the numbers clearly show he was the star, at least for one night, Whitlow said he’s only worried about being the best he can be and not where he stands in the competition for the No. 1 spot.
“That’s up to the coaches,” Whitlow said when asked if he has a leg up on Smith and Patrick Towles. “I just tried to go out there and play my best.”
It’s difficult to tell if that was Whitlow’s best, considering it was against second string competition in a spring scrimmage, but he admitted to playing well this spring and having a lot more confidence entering his second season. He showed off a new swagger while talking to the media Saturday night, which he credits to maturity and being grounded.
“Last fall I was a little 18 year old just trying to grasp everything, everything was moving so fast,” he said. “But now, the college life, it’s not a big thing anymore so just coming in and focusing on football and school and being grounded is the biggest thing.”
And that confidence?
“You never see Peyton Manning carrying himself like a Regular Joe.”
We can all agree it’s a little early to pull out the Peyton Manning comparisons, but it is time to acknowledge that Whitlow is a serious candidate for UK’s starting role under center. The job that was once believed to be Max Smith’s to lose, with Towles and Whitlow competing for second, now appears to be a wide open race and Whitlow took the lead on Saturday night.