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Kentucky Football Position by Position Preview: Quarterback

Part one in an eight part series previewing the 2013 football Cats

One of these guys is about to put up some numbers.

Mark Stoops is nearing the end of what may be the greatest off-season coaching job in Kentucky football history.  In his first six months in the big chair, Stoops has electrified a depressed and divided fan base and has, against all odds, transformed the Kentucky brand into one that is relevant to elite high school talent.  But as summer fades into fall, the load gets increasingly heavy. Stoops must now guide a paper-thin roster of Wildcats fresh off a soul-crushing 2-10 debacle of a season through a schedule tabbed by media as the nation’s toughest.  If that scenario did not generate enough stress, Stoops also enters fall camp facing a decision of enormous consequence: who is his quarterback?

Though Stoops would certainly prefer to have a definitive starter in place, there is cause for optimism.  On a roster in which the use of the term “depth chart” is often an oxymoron, there are three, and perhaps even four, quarterbacks on the roster that Stoops believes have the ability to man the controls of Neal Brown’s Air Raid 2.0 offense.  This fact should bring comfort, if not clarity, to Stoops in making his ultimate decision, which is clearly crucial to transferring off-season momentum to on-field production.


The Candidates:

Maxwell Smith  6-4, 218 So., Granada Hills, CA

— Kentucky’s most experienced quarterback, Smith has played in 12 career games with 7 starts.
— Was granted a medical redshirt in 2012 after sustaining a season-ending injury in the opening series of Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina.
— In just over three games in 2012, completed 103 passes in 150 attempts for 975 yards and 8 touchdowns.

— For his career, has thrown for nearly 1800 yards and completed 62% of his passes.

— Primary strengths are intelligence (1480 on his SAT) and accuracy, both crucial traits in Neal Brown’s offense.

Jalen Whitlow 6-2, 220 So., Prattville, AL

— Despite modest expectations (only part-time starter at quarterback in high school), started 7 games in 2012 as a true freshman.
— Handicapped by a somewhat toothless offense, still managed to throw for 801 yards and 3 touchdowns and rush for 206 yards and another 3 scores.
— Surprised again in spring drills when he more than held his own with both Smith and Towles.

— Was MVP of the Spring game.

— Like Smith, an intelligent player as evidenced by his inclusion on the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

Patrick Towles 6-5, 225 So., Ft. Thomas, KY

— Arrived at UK in 2012 as a Parade All American and the headliner of his recruiting class.

— A three time state champ at powerful Ft. Thomas Highlands, accumulated over 7000 passing yards and 73 touchdowns as well as 1700 rushing yards and   35 more scores in his high school career.
— Has the prototypical height and arm strength of an NFL quarterback.

— Limited by injury in 2012, played in 5 games, throwing for 233 yards and one touchdown.

Reese Phillips 6-2, 219 Fr., Signal Mountain, TN

— A true freshman who graduated early from Signal Mountain High School to enroll at UK in January.

— Though still likely to redshirt, early enrollment allowed Phillips to participate in spring  practice.

— Opened eyes in the Spring Game by completing 10 of his 12 passing attempts for 75 yards and a touchdown.


With three players of relatively similar talent levels in a virtual dead heat, it is difficult to handicap the field.  Perhaps the only real clues can be found in the few words that can be pried from a tight-lipped Neal Brown on the subject, and a review of Brown’s history as an offensive coordinator.  Brown has stated specifically that the two traits he most covets in a quarterback for his system are quick decision-making and passing accuracy. Implicit in this statement is that he does not put a huge premium on the characteristic that most separates Jalen Whitlow from his competitors: his dynamic running ability.  This is further supported by Brown’s coaching history.  In his five previous seasons as an offensive coordinator at Troy and Texas Tech, Brown has never had  a starting quarterback rush for more than 100 yards in a season.  In short, the Air Raid has traditionally favored a pure pocket passer.  This certainly does not mean that Whitlow can’t win the job.  It simply means that he will have to do so with his arm rather than his legs.

Whoever gets the starting nod will almost assuredly put up impressive numbers.  In his half-decade as a coordinator, every Neal Brown offense has averaged at least 33 points per game.  (Almost double what the 2012 Cats averaged.)  With Brown’s Hal Mumme roots, it should not surprise that this scoring barrage has been triggered by the passing attack.  All three of Brown’s Red Raider offenses placed in the top 10 nationally in passing yards per game.  So which lucky contestant will get to put that offense to work against the Hilltoppers on August 31st?  The guess here is that Smith, with his edge in experience, wins the starting job, Whitlow plays situationally as a backup and Towles and Phillips redshirt.  It is clear, however, that any of the four can dramatically alter that forecast over the next month.

Article written by Duncan Cavanah

27 Comments for Kentucky Football Position by Position Preview: Quarterback

  1. Cool Daddy
    2:06 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    This is a wel done breakdown. Nice, logical outlook with time put into research of Coach brown. Cheers

  2. Big Numbers?
    2:06 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Who is going to catch the ball to put up said numbers? Receiving corp is garbage, especially with Blue being ineligible.

  3. Wildcatsteeler
    2:26 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I can’t help but wonder how our QB situation is gonna play out. Smith has the xp and his high accuracy will probably earn him the starter spot. But Towles is an NFL possible QB and isn’t gonna be happy sitting the bench for a season or two. And with Barker coming he may never get the start. And goofball Joker ruined his freshman season where he should have redshirted. If Smith starts this entire season I won’t be surprised if Towles transfers.
    Ideally the best road for the program is Towles is playing well enough to get the start now. He starts until he leaves and Smith is the solid back up. Barker redshirts next season then steps into the starter spot when Towles leaves.

  4. Centre
    2:30 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I say Towles ends up at Centre College. Not sure if he will ever see the field again at Kentucky.

    2:35 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Demarco Robinson isn’t garbage, and he will probably have a great year. Hopefully Blue will gain eligibility and Montgomery, Badet, and Timmons can contribute.

  6. Funky Monkey
    2:41 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I was at the Spring game,… I’m telling you, that Reese Phillips stole the thunder IMO. He just looked super and I was prepared to overlook him, but you shouldn’t IMO.

  7. NL
    2:43 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Whats the chance Blue regains eligibility? I think Collins will have a good year as well

  8. ATB
    2:43 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    If you all have not read the story on about Mark Emmert by Mike Fish then you should. During the Outside The Lines interviews former personnel came out and said that they NCAA targets specific coaches and programs especially when the coach is thought to be dirty and they said it is rampant in the NCAA group that handles basketball. Shows once again that the NCAA is an out of date biased organization with a management system that is eventually going to keel over and die.

  9. Jomz
    3:00 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Ideally- Max, Jalen, and Reese.

    Towles transfers for some community colllege. As for an NFL prospect, sure he has the body and arm. But so do a ton of other players. And then Drew Barker takes the reigns after a redshirt year and we win the SEC East.

  10. Jalo
    3:06 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    #9 OMG you are too funny. keep dreaming

  11. JDH
    3:14 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Isn’t Smith a Junior?

  12. wallnutz14
    3:15 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Don’t sleep on the Cunningham kid at WR that had a great spring game. He has an ideal body for the position and impressed me. He looked as confident and comfortable as any of the other guys being talked about.

  13. JDH
    3:15 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Nevermind. Didn’t know he was granted a medical redshirt.

  14. wallnutz14
    3:16 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    And I forgot to mention that he caught the ball when it was thrown to him! It’s sad that we have to mention that as an attribute when hyping our WRs these days…

  15. Fred
    3:17 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Towels will start
    He is the best player I ever seen in high school

  16. SEC
    3:24 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    10 – I wish we played in a weak-ass football conference sometimes *cough* AAC?? *cough*… Nah, I’d rather play in a real conference.

  17. Bradley
    3:32 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Oh no! I don’t think Smith is as good as some do and pointed out the 4 INT’s against WKU. Have to delete that comment for sure. God forbid someone disagree with KSR.

  18. Rockfield, KY
    3:38 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Reese’s family here in Chattanooga seem to think that he could end up as the backup QB to Max Smith. Those two get rid of the ball the quickest and with the most accuracy. Not huges arms, but make snap decisions. Just keep your eye on Reese Phillips. Whitlow is more of a change of pace guy when your O-Line is playing poorly.

  19. kes
    3:39 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    9. you are a clown. i have watched towles and barker both play since pee wee football. and as a junior in high school, towles was WAY ahead of barker.

  20. Inside Scoop
    3:42 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Talked to Max Smith a couple weeks back when I was out in Lexington. He said it is between him and Jalen. He failed to mention Towles, so I’m guessing he isn’t really in contention as of now

  21. Rei
    3:43 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Blue isn’t ineligible, go back to UL boards

  22. Rei
    3:45 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    scratch that! nvm

  23. Michael F. Jox
    3:47 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    The people on here who act like Towles isn’t good enough and won’t ever see the field in Lex have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. But why would you, you are UK football fans after all. For those of us up north (you know, where you get most of your talent nowadays) that have seen Patrick, and the savior you guys have made him out to be, Drew Barker play, know otherwise. Don’t be surprised a couple years from now when Towles is still the starting QB. How soon we forget that he had a better high school career, and ALSO was an Elite 11 QB, which seems to be huge to you guys when talking about Drew.

  24. Tall tale
    3:51 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I just appreciate Whitlow and Smith’s followers saying absolutely nothing.
    Just read these articles and play football.
    Let the coaches make the decisions!

  25. Linda Taylor
    4:16 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    23 – Point of information Towles did not make it into the top 11 of the Elite 11 like Barker did. He ended up 16 or 18 didn’t he? Barker ended up 7. Not that I don’t like Towles, I do, just technically he wasn’t in the final 11.

  26. Yo Daddy
    5:59 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Players on the team say Towles will eventually transfer

  27. jomz
    11:13 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Anything and everything based on towles is what he did in high school. Max Smith has SEC experience, smarter, cooler, less douchey, gets us more wins now, option. #23 can suck it. towles peaked high school…