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Whit-Throw vs. ‘Max Air Raid’: 5 Reasons Jalen Should Be Starting

Whitlow in Black maxsmith


With less than a week until the media will descend upon Commonwealth Stadium to fill your eyes and ears with in-depth stories about the 2014 Kentucky Wildcats, I must take advantage of this last opportunity to indoctrinate you with my beliefs on who should fill the coveted role of starting Quarterback in the first year of Neal Brown’s Air Raid offense. I have avoided conversing about the matter with my family, friends, and (most importantly) acquaintances thus far; small talks turn into long talks and casual arguments don’t remain casual. Besides, in all likelihood the winner of the three way competition between Pat Towles, Max Smith, and Jalen Whitlow will not be announced until well after the conclusion of preseason camp.

Once practice begins next week, the QB competition will ascend to it’s peak. After learning the offense during the Spring, all three have had the opportunity to perfect their game during the summer while improving their bodies with Coach Korem. The coaches have left the race wide open thus far, but the general consensus by the public has the race narrowed down to two: Jalen Whitlow and Max Smith. Once football chatter began with Mark Stoops’ hire, Max Smith seemed to be the hands-down favorite to inherit the offense, until Jalen Whitlow showed a record Spring crowd the best performance of the night. While no one knows who has made the biggest jump over the last three months other than the coaching staff, there are still plenty of factors to consider for each QB. After having plenty of time to mull it over myself, here are the 5 biggest reasons Jalen should get the job.


1. An Optimum Air Raid Athlete. Jalen’s superior athleticism might be the only universally accepted fact in this QB competition. Neither Max nor Pat are schmucks, but they can’t move it like Jagger Jalen. Thinking comparatively is too simple-minded though. If you look at college football nationwide, it is undeniable how important mobility at the Quarterback position has become. The principle is simple,:the best teams have the best Quarterbacks that can do the most good things. Louisville couldn’t be in this unfamiliar territory without the heroics of Teddy Bridgewater. Texas A&M couldn’t have taken the SEC transition in stride without Johnny Football’s playmaking prowess. Gene Chizik couldn’t keep his job after Cam Newton essentially won a BCS Championship by himself. Not only do athletic QB’s provide a physical challenge in containing the pass rush, but it has pioneered a new style of play: the read option. You can commonly call it the “mesh” play, where the QB in the shotgun position exaggerates a handoff to the running back next to him, deciding whether to keep the ball or run based on a defensive end’s actions. By successfully adding this to ANY team’s playbook it makes a difference, but for Kentucky it could determine if Mark Stoops’ first season was a good one, or just good enough. With a depleted WR group and a relatively deep running back core, from a personnel standpoint it makes the most sense. Inserting Jalen Whitlow’s running ability into Neal Brown’s offense doesn’t guarantee that the Cats will be able to run against elite SEC defenses, but it WILL keep them honest.


2. How good is a pocket passer without a pocket? The only position that produces enough talent to compete against Punter U is the pocket passing Quarterback. The best Kentucky teams in recent memory were at their best when Couch, Woodson, or Lorenzen were sitting back slingin’ in the pocket. Max Smith comes from the same mold, but he doesn’t have the luxury that those other guys had: an offensive line. This year’s unit shouldn’t be bad, but when not one but TWO Olineman are drafted from a team that saw EVERY QB suffer injury, you have to wonder if they’re sitting ducks. Why not use a fast duck? Jalen’s game encompasses traditional side-to-side elusiveness, but more importantly he proved to the CWS audience at the Spring Game that he excels when moving swiftly around the pocket while targetting receivers. Defenses aren’t going to bring the blitz as often when they have to worry about a QB getting away, giving Neal Brown more play calling options.


3. Someone’s gotta go. It hasn’t been brought up much because nobody wants to be the party pooper, but I am about to poop all over the happy parade when I say that one of these QBs will not be ending his career at UK. I’d like to have them all stay and play but the harsh reality is that QBs transfer ALL THE TIME, and it’s not just the Average Joe’s. Only six of Rival’s Top 20 QBs from the Class of 2010 (would be Seniors that are my age) haven’t transferred from their original school. With Drew Barker arriving on campus in 2014, the trend will inevitably extend at Kentucky. These guys are playing to stay, and Jalen Whitlow isn’t going to sit by and let someone steal his starting spot after going his entire life without a starting spot until the South Carolina game. This factor makes the competition more fierce, and I give the edge to the best “gamer”, Jalen Whitlow. 


4. A Spring Game PTPer. The Spring Game is the go-to reason for most ‘experts’ and idiots alike (or the same) to proclaim Jalen as ‘their guy’, with their reasons holding merit; when the other QBs couldn’t find their rhythm on the field, Jalen was smooth, throwing for 2 TDs and racking up nearly  250 yards of offense. That sounds phenomenal but if you ‘really watched’ the game, you’d know that the QBs were faced with the toughest task of the night. It is difficult to have a healthy QB/WR relationship when rotating between teams, especially in an offense designed to run as many plays as possible. Jalen stayed on page with his WRs and made plays when the opportunity was given. Throughout time the best-of-the-best prove themselves when faced with adversity. Jalen proved to the coaching staff that he can not only handle adversity, but excel when thrown a curveball. Coach Stoops needs a gamer at QB just as badly as Coach Cal needs one at PG. If the football staff can find the genius to give adversity with this Spring’s defense, then I’m certain they will be giving many a Quarterbacks hell in the future.


5. Because ‘I told you so’. There was a solid 5 week span between National Signing Day and Spring Practice when a lot of buzz started being spread around campus. After hearing a few things about who was playing well and working hard during off-season workouts, I knew Jalen was going to finish his Spring like a bat out of hell. Rashawn Franklin wouldn’t budge when I told him the Whit-Throw is the future, and now he is on #TeamJalen. I love it when I’m right (like I will be in a few short weeks).


To sum it up bluntly, an offense that will be hungry for playmakers needs one at Quarterback. With limited options at the WR position, an offense centered around Jalen Whitlow gives Neal Brown more play calling options, forcing opponents to prepare more than they would for a Pat or Max. Jalen has yet to hold the spotlight, but this could be the year he glows beneath it.


Think I’m wrong? Show me what ya got @RoushKSR

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

56 Comments for Whit-Throw vs. ‘Max Air Raid’: 5 Reasons Jalen Should Be Starting

  1. NL
    1:07 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Smith threw for more yards and nearly 3x the number of touchdowns in 3 games as Whitlow threw the entire season. Unless Whitlow has an arm we don’t know about, I say we use the guy that can throw (Smith) in our pass oriented offense. Either way, I trust the staff will make the right decision

  2. Blonde Bomber
    1:12 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Smith was leading the SEC in passing leading up to the poor performance against WKU. Hopefully Whitlow’s accuracy has improved, since last year he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat but I think in the end you go with the guy with the most experience and who gives you the best chance to win and that will be Smith.

  3. Musehobo
    1:15 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    If Stoops/Brown think Jalen is the best option, I’m all for it. Would be VERY exciting to watch him give us a chance to win games with hi slegs. However, Brown’s QB’s have been more traditional passers in the past. I believe Brown said whoever throws the most accurately will win the job. I think that will be Smith.

  4. James
    1:17 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Whitlow impressed in the Spring Game but you gotta go with the proven guy at the start of the season unless Whitlow blows everyone away at camp.

    Like #1 and #2 stated, Smith was setting up for an impressive year. The defense was awful and was the main reason for the early losses.

    Smith is injury prone so Whitlow may get his chance sooner than later.

    Good post Roush. Agree to disagree.

  5. Drewsster02
    1:18 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    I hope that if Jalen doesn’t win the starting spot that he can make the transition to WR ala Randall Cobb. He is too good of an athlete to sit on the bench. With the depleted WR corps, I am surprised this possibility has not been discussed more. But I think it goes to show you how impressed the staff is with his play at QB, to not suggest this already.

  6. AboveAverageJoe
    1:20 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    #1 jalen was going up against top tier SEC football teams.. Max smith played UofL, kent state, and WKU. (Looked awful against western)

  7. MacGruberdoesnotneedangermanagement
    1:21 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink


    1:22 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Smith will start against WKU. If you’re feeling so confident, Roush, make a wager.

  9. btowncatfan
    1:24 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    To all those touting Smith, How many games against SEC opponents did he play in last year? Statistics don’t always point to the absolute truth. I like Smith and think we could do well with him. Also like Whitlow’s versatility. Trust in Stoops (and Neal Brown).

  10. UK
    1:25 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Please don’t write off Pat Towles…..

  11. Sam
    1:26 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Just wanted to make the same observation as the above poster regarding Max’s stats. Jalen got the meat grinder portion of the schedule. I also think the experience factor for Smith is not what some have built it up to be. Jalen played a lot of games last year. I won’t be upset regardless of what the staff decides to do, but some of the commentary above on Jalen isn’t exactly on the level.

  12. Dan
    1:34 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Not sure why everyone seems to think this is a 2-man race. Are you aware that there is a Parade All-American on the roster that plays QB? As #10 stated, don’t write off Patrick Towles. Like Drew Barker, he was built for the Air Raid.

  13. @willdawson77
    1:35 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    #2 Max’s numbers came primarily against Kent State

  14. TJCATS
    1:37 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Towles isn’t out of this race. Wouldn’t really surprise me to see him win it. But, how many of Neal Brown’s offenses at Texas Tech used a running QB with a decent arm?

  15. tyson
    1:43 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Towles won’t start and in fact will probably transfer after this year. Between his parents and him, he is not making any friends with the current staff. Barker is this staff’s guy for the future, not Towles.

  16. RealDeal
    1:44 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    I think Patrick Towles will be the starting quarterback. He arm is stronger then the rest of the QB and his size is what you want in a SEC QB. All three of them need to work on there accuracy but that comes with experience. Jalen is not a SEC QB but he can be a good offensive weapon (Randall Cobb), Maxwell does not have the arm strength to run this type of offense but do not get me wrong he is a good QB but not a “Air Raid” QB. We are thin at WR and I think Jalen could help fill one those slots. He had a great high school career, he was ranked high in recruiting coming out of high school and under this offense I think he will flourish.

  17. I Say
    1:46 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    After the spring game Im hoping Jalen wins the starting spot. With such a weak O-line we need a playmaker taking the snaps. Though Jalen doesn’t fit Neal Browns typical QB’s. I think I remember seeing a stat that said in the last couple of years at Texas Tech, none of Brown’s QB’s have rushed for over 100 yards in a season.

  18. RealDeal
    1:49 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    15.) Barker is the future for UK at QB but he will probably not start his freshmen year, how many freshmen QB have you seen start there freshmen year in the SEC.

    1:55 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Max Smith started against SEC schools as a freshman too. Why is everyone disregarding that?

    1:56 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    18, I saw it twice last year with Whitlow and Towles, and I saw it the year before with Smith…..

  21. Blonde Bomber
    1:56 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    13 If you had checked you would have found that Smith was Freshman all SEC in 2011. Beating Ole Miss in a come from behind finish in his first start.

  22. Mr Obviou
    2:03 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    2 OL drafted? Who besides Warford?
    Whitlow will see action as a WR before QB. Phillips looked as good as any one during the spring game. Smith will start against WKU.

  23. Maxwell
    2:03 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    In my humble opinion, Max Smith needs to be the guy. He has shown flashes of greatness in the past. Yes, he threw 3 first half interceptions against western. But then he had an awesome 2nd half. Max is a gunslinger.

  24. RealDeal
    2:06 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    20.) Ok let me rephrase that ?, how many SEC teams that are not in the basement of the SEC have started a true freshmen @ QB and have won?

  25. SoCal Will
    2:06 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Trust Coach Brown and Coach Stoops. It is going to be a tough season and who needs a QB controversy?

  26. TN Cat
    2:06 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Looks like Max Smith has a limp wristed throwing style.

  27. fanfan
    2:07 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink need to look at a few things…1. look at the teams max played against last yr and the teams jalen played against (max threw 4 int in one game. whitlow the whole season= 2. whitlow was a true freshman who didn’t even attend the spring practice so he could not have know the theory based complex offense from last yr. 3. max grey shirted and had 2 extra yrs in the offense. 4. if max is the passer why is whitlow out playing him all spring and spring game? 5. whitlows offense in high school was mostly run based but they came in second in nation in the 7 on 7 his sr year. 6. this is a biggie! whitlow out played a QB in high school that had every SEC offer and out played Auburn incoming freshman Jeremy Johnson in middle school. conclusion….his upside is off the charts and will be a top 5 QB in the nation!

  28. btowncatfan
    2:10 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    22. Matt Smith I believe.

  29. Chicago Chris
    2:14 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Last year in the spring was all Towles Towles Towles. What happened? With Barker coming, why would Towles stick around?

  30. KnowYourHistory
    2:14 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Whoever starts this year will be put into a position that has the possibility of succeeding unlike last year where these 3 qb’s were evaluated on their ability to run the draw on 3rd and 60.

    One thing about Max Smith, he had a good game against Kent State who turned out to be pretty good. They beat #15 Rutgers and lost in 3OTs in their conference championship game to #21 N Illinois. If they would have won that game, they finish as a top 25 team last year.

  31. Smithwillstart
    2:15 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Folks who argue Smith hasnt played against SEC competition clearly ignore his True Freshman year where he played 2nd half against MissSt, started against OleMiss, UGA and Vandy…..

    Smith is the most accurate….he’s got a quick release. THE 2 most important things you need in the AIR RAID offense. Not goid running ability.

    Dont believe me? Look at TexasTech’s QBs’ running stats last 3 seasons…..less than 75 yards TOTAL for each of those 3 years.

  32. Say yes to coal tax money says
    2:16 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    This offense requires accuracy on short throws
    Max can do that better than Jalen. Enough said.

  33. KnowYourHistory
    2:17 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    I agree with #5 and #22 that Jalen would be far more valuable as a WR this year. With the depth issues at the position, the coaches should have said start running pass routes.

  34. Ky boy
    2:20 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    I personally like towels, but they all 3 better get they’re sh$$ together because the boy from Burlington, ky. Is probably gonna out do them all.

  35. Smithwillstart
    2:21 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Also, everyone acts like UL and Kent St sucked last year…..Last I checked, UL throttled Florida and Kent St was 11-1(only loss was to UK) and almost BCS Bowl bound…..

    And no matter how you slice it…..approx 1000 yards passing, abt 69% completion percentage, and 8 TD passes (with 4 Ints), is good to excellent for any QB, regardless of the perceived lack of competition.

  36. NL
    2:22 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    27- When Whitlow started against Samford (who wasn’t as good as Kent St, WKU, or UL) he threw for 66 yards. I understand he had some tough competition in SEC play, but UL was pretty good last year and Smith threw for 280 yards and 2 TD. If Whitlow turns out to be the best QB, I am 100% behind him. But I have not seen anything that supports that assertion.

  37. fanfan
    2:22 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Fyi. Coaches are sandbagging. This comp is not close.

  38. fanfan
    2:28 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    36 did u see the spring game? Max is a old man compaired to whitlow and towles. He should be head and shoulders above but whitlow and phillips is better and towles is last. Next year barker will be 3rd

  39. Tim Couch
    2:30 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    It was my mobility that made the air raid hum.

  40. Yesterdays
    2:32 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    you dont need to have a cannon to run this offense. Accuracy is what is important. There is going to be a TON of short passes. If you think Air Raid means we are going to be hanging up deep bombs every play then you are going to be let down.
    Look at almost ALL of the QB’s who played at Texas Tech. The knock on them when they got to the pros was that they did not have strong enough arms. But they put up MAJOR numbers in the Air Raid offense/Spread at Tech and similar schools- THink Kellen Moore of Boise.

  41. Yesterdays
    2:33 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    #30- LOL. Totally Agree

  42. Coach
    2:55 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Accuracy and decision making will be the two things that decide this race. Not mobility. And definitely not arm strength.

  43. DH
    3:07 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Surely there was a less girly-man picture of Max Smith to use

  44. KG
    3:21 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Here we go again- the ole quarterback controversy! New coaching staff,new offense,new defense,great recruits coming and finally the football program seems to be on solid ground except for the 30,000 armchair coaches who think they know more than the real coaches when it comes to deciding who will take the snap! I don’t want your opinions on who should or shouldn’t play unless you are an actual coach paid by the University to coach football. Sorry for the rant but that old school of second guessing has gotten rather stale.

    Let it rest and enjoy the up-coming ride. You’ll sleep better at night.

  45. Game of Thrones Reference
    4:01 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Max Smith is the Stannis Baratheon of quarterbacks.

  46. The Dude
    4:12 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    I say take a chance on Whitlow.

  47. Do whut?
    4:22 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Air raid does not equal spread option. That’s all I got Roush.

  48. Beatle Bum
    5:03 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Point #2 is hollow. UK had ONE lineman drafted. Smith may be in a camp, but as an undrafted FA. West and Miller are solid linemen. Brown seemed happy with the line in the spring. I think it will surprise people this year.

  49. BWoolum
    6:33 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    This year is Going to Be a Dink and Dunk Raid not much Air Raid so it will not matter the QB……when you have no Wideouts….

  50. jimlowe7
    6:49 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    I believe, if you check the statistics, no QB in a Neal Brown offense has RUN for at least 200 yards over the course of an ENTIRE SEASON. His QB’s are PASSERS, NOT runners. Unless Whitlow is better at reading a defense and getting the ball to WR’s, TE’s, and RB’s in open space he will NOT start. He may be able to run a “WILDCAT” option sometimes to mix things up if the offense bogs down in a game, but his future at UK is at WR (IMHO) and he could play enough THIS SEASON to stay ahead of at least one of the incoming guys (who could be red-shirted as a result). He could transfer and play QB in college but not in the NFL so using his talent to that end would seem wisest.

  51. RandyB
    7:28 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    I see Max Smith starting, but getting hurt once again and being replaced by Patrick Towles, while Whitlow realizes that if he wants to make an NFL roster it’s going to be at wide receiver. Suspect that Towles will ultimately be replaced by Barker though. Reese Phillips, who is a good QB, will transfer. Middle Tennessee?

  52. Sam
    7:48 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    The offense could not move with Whitlow running it last year. Max moved the chains. And even Towles had the offensive moving crisply when he was in, and the receivers running routes hard and effectively. Towles unfortunately had terribly accuracy and missed wide open receivers time and again. For whatever reason, Whitlow was unable to inspire the offense.

    Of course, he could have improved since last year. If he ends up getting the nod, then that would be great news, as it would mean he was doing something right.

  53. CazzyCat44
    8:09 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    As Cal would put it, we are a “Players First Program”. Does Jalen truly have a future as a QB. I think at this point of Cobb’s career we were all wanting him to be the starting QB because of lack of better options. I think the staff in the end needs to make the best decision for Jalen. With his athleticism he could be a tremendous TE/WR, we could use that help.

  54. Mark
    9:21 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Why not move Jalen to WR and let the other QBs fight it out?

  55. james wilson
    9:47 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    Same ooint as the others… Max Smith threw for over 900 yrds and 9 tds in 3 games before being injured… and they weren’t all dip n dunk passes 4-5 yards from scrimmage… and as neal brown has said and was quoted numerous times you HAVE TO BE ACCURATE with the football… Max Smith is the most accurate and has descent arm strength…. and has shown good leading qualities with his teammates, I dont disagree with the argument made about Jalen… but if anything, his accuracy wld be his dwnfall

  56. Fanfan
    9:58 pm July 31, 2013 Permalink

    People whitlow won every stat during the entire spring…..yards. TDs. Less INTs…im hearing jalen has the chance to be onr of the best to come…..get use to hearing Jalen Whitlow….