On just the second play of Kentucky’s first offensive possession last night, Max Smith suffered an injury that would knock him out of the game — and it wasn’t his shoulder this time. No, it was an ankle injury that took out Kentucky’s starting quarterback and sent him back to the locker room for X-rays. Joker Phillips said after the game that the X-rays were negative, but they’ll take another look at the injury on Sunday.
If Smith’s injury is a significant one, Jalen Whitlow will hold the keys to Kentucky’s offense. Whitlow played better than “not God-awful” in relief for Smith against South Carolina, which makes us wonder why Morgan Newton was in the game for so long against Florida. Whitlow looked great on his first possession, a 94-yard drive from the 1 yard line, and continued to impress throughout the remainder of the first half. But pressure got to him in the second and it brought UK fans back down to Earth as he took sack after sack and struggled to get the ball out of his hands. Afterwards, Whitlow acknowledged his mistakes.
“It was difficult because they were coming,” Whitlow said after the game. “They were putting on pressure, I was holding on to the ball too much. Just got to stay focused.”
Joker Phillips said a lot of that pressure came because Whitlow failed to make the proper adjustments at the line before the snap. He said, “The same motions and shifts that we do became really hard for him. He missed a few of them. Some of the pressure that he got was because he didn’t send a motion or didn’t send shifts.”
Remember Joker talking about how he needs a guy who can handle the “Oh Sh-t” moments? That’s what Whitlow struggled with. And, as you saw, he found himself in a lot of “Oh Sh-t” moments. He did, however, manage to scramble out of some of those moments and make a big play. Joker called it encouraging to see Jalen make the most out of broken plays.
“He has a chance to extend plays with his feet,” Joker said of his freshman quarterback’s ability to escape out of the pocket. “He made a few plays for us in the quarterback run game and he also made a few plays by pulling the ball down and making them play with his feet. So that was encouraging for him.”
Expect Kentucky to add more quarterback run plays to the playbook this week if Towles is out. Joker said Whitlow isn’t a Wildcat guy, so don’t expect to see any Cobb-like play calls, but they will look to utilize Whitlow’s athleticism and elusiveness at the quarterback position.
Finally, for all of you Patrick Towles advocates, the staff will only considering removing Towles’ redshirt if Max Smith’s ankle injury is a serious one. Even then, they’ll only pull the redshirt if Towles is expected to contribute. A lot of fans have demanded that Towles see the field, but there is a reason he is the No. 4 quarterback on the depth chart. He’s just not ready to compete at this level. Yet.
Hopefully, we see Smith back for Mississippi State. If not, it’s #TeamWhitlow.