For OC Randy Sanders, this week is about figuring out how to attack Arkansas’ defense with the quarterbacks that are still available. On one hand is true freshman quarterback, Jalen Whitlow. Whitlow did not have a great outing against Mississippi State, something Sanders expressed shortly after the game, but he’s really the only completely healthy quarterback left on Kentucky’s roster. According to Sanders, with Whitlow under center, Kentucky can only run about 10-15% of its playbook. Obviously that can be a problem if opposing defensive coordinators have those plays on film, and can effectively plan for them. On the other hand is veteran quarterback, Morgan Newton. Newton, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery, knows more of the offense, but can’t really throw all of the routes. If defenses know that, they can bring safeties down on the Kentucky offense to take away the run game and force Newton to throw the routes he’s not able to throw. It’s really pick your poison for the Wildcats offense, and it will force Sanders to be really creative going forward.
-Newton did get first-team reps at today’s practice, according to Sanders. Expect Whitlow to be the starter, but coaches are prepping Newton for a relief appearance if Whitlow happens to go down. “Jalen was fortunate because he got second team reps today, too,” Sanders said. “I told Jalen, he is going to be tired everyday he leaves the practice field this week because I need to get him every rep I possibly can. If something happens to him and Morgan has to play or whoever goes in next is being done a tremendous disservice this week, but our best opportunity to win is to get Jalen all the reps he can get and see if we can get through some of those mistakes in practice and hopefully make him that much better on Saturday.”
-Sanders also spoke on the type of defense Kentucky will see against Arkansas. Arkansas will not show as many fronts as Mississippi State does, but their coverage packages are more complex. “Different coverage package and there is obviously some carry over in the coverage package but there are different coverages,” Sanders said. “Their blitz package is a little different than what we have seen. Up front, there are similarities but also some differences and they do a few different things up front than the last few teams have done. It is nothing we haven’t seen before but something Jalen hasn’t seen a lot of probably.”
-On the other side of the football, DC Rick Minter has his hands full preparing for one of the best quarterbacks the nation has to offer in Tyler Wilson. Arkansas is 2nd in the SEC with 301.3 passing yards/game, something can have a defensive coordinator losing sleep with all of the youth now in Kentucky’s secondary. “You name it, they can do it,” Minter said about Arkansas’ offense. “Tyler Wilson is a good quarterback; they got good ample receivers; they got a tight end that could be back this week that they have missed a lot; they have a good runner; they have solid big guys up front left over from Mike Summers a few years ago and they are coached very well; we will have to defeat all forces.”
-With S Tay Neloms day-to-day, and presumably out for Saturday’s game, Kentucky will be without probably the best player in their secondary. Minter initially said there was only about six players healthy in the group, but Summers refuted that today. “We’ll have enough for a two-deep depth chart on Saturday,” Summers said. Summers wouldn’t say who would start, though, he expects that decision to come closer to game day.
-Two players expected to get a lot of playing time in the secondary this weekend are twins Zack and Daron Blaylock. Check out what they had to say about playing together at Kentucky: