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By LARRY VAUGHT

Quarterback Jalen Whitlow has a “dinged up shoulder” and a continuing sore ankle, but Kentucky coach Mark Stoops insisted Monday that he “should be fine” for Saturday night’s game against Alabama State.

“He’ll be sore. He’ll be out there practicing today,” said Stoops Monday. “He should be fine.”

However, who would play if Whitlow is hurt and/or ineffective remains a bit of a mystery after Stoops confirmed that true freshman Reese Phillips has moved ahead of sophomore Patrick Towles, a former Kentucky Mr. Football.

Stoops said that Phillips, who has not played this year, will get “some reps in practice” this week. Stoops did not mention Maxwell Smith, last week’s starting quarterback at Mississippi State when Whitlow was slowed by an ankle injury. Whitlow and Smith have battled for the No. 1 spot since spring practice, but Stoops said “I don’t know” when asked if Phillips would be UK’s second or third option at quarterback this week.

“We’ll work on it this week. He’s definitely going to be an option,” Stoops said.

That sure sounds like if Smith does not have a good week of practice and Phillips does, then Phillips likely would be the backup Saturday and could well get into his first game at UK even though the plan has been to redshirt him. It could also signal that Towles has to rethink his future at UK — something that never seemed possible when he was the marquee recruit in UK’s 2012 recruiting class after his storied prep career — because Whitlow, Smith and Phillips could all be back next year along with recruit Drew Barker.

Stoops said Phillips has done a “nice job of managing the game” from his play in the Blue-White Game to end spring practice to every scrimmage he’s been in.

“If nothing else, if we get ourselves with certain plays and checks and run‑pass options, if we just execute the call, we give ourselves a chance.  We’re not even doing that at times, and that’s frustrating, let alone throws or different things,” Stoops said. “It’s just putting ourselves, putting our team in a position to be successful with decisions. I think he does a nice job of protecting the football, and I think he does a nice job with his decision making.”

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown has been looking for consistency play after play from a quarterback — and has not got it yet this season.

“He’s a true freshman, and we have other options. He didn’t get as many reps all along, but he has gotten reps and he has been impressive.  We keep on waiting, and you know that; we all do. We wait for our other quarterbacks to take it and run,” Stoops said. “I think Jalen has been there. I think Jalen is the guy that has been very close to leading us, and then we get an injury and set us back, and that can’t happen.

“We’ve just got to stay healthy. We’ve got to be stronger, we have got to protect him better, and if he does go down we’ve got to be better prepared for somebody else to lead us.”

Stoops clearly wants to see Whitlow take charge at quarterback, something he seemed poised to do with his play against South Carolina before injuring his ankle against Alabama. Whitlow told UK coaches he felt “gimpy” warming up for Mississippi State, but at halftime Stoops went to him to see if he could not play — and he did.

“I see it as a guy that’s leading the program in the SEC and I see other SEC players banged up and leading their team to victory, don’t you?  That’s what we need to do,” Stoops said.

The Kentucky coach admitted there was a “fine line” between being injured and playing through pain and that he does not ever tell a player he should be playing.

“But if somebody is sore, then yeah, I’m going to challenge them. If somebody is —‑they (medical personnel) make all those decisions. I can’t get into that,” Stoops said. “But yes, we have to learn to differentiate between being injured and just being a little bit banged up. That’s for the players and for the trainers to decide. But if they can go, they need to go.”

Stoops noted how South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw twice has been injured but each time came back to play, including Saturday at Missouri when he rallied South Carolina to a comeback victory.

“It’s up to the players, and they have to decide what they can handle, and our medical people do a great job. But I think that toughness comes from a culture, and we’re trying to build it,” Stoops said. “I don’t think we’re there yet, and we’re going to get there. I can promise you.”

But while he’s mulling who the backup quarterback will be and if Whitlow and others can play with toughness, he is seeing signs his team is maturing.

“I think I saw a group that was hurt after the game (at Mississippi State) that they know — the more you invest, the more it should hurt, and I think our team is starting to hurt,” Stoops said. “They’re starting to understand that we can do this. If we, again, just do some things better, control the things we can control, and execute in some critical situations. I think they see us looking like an SEC football team at times.  We’re just not consistent.”

27 Responses to “Dinged up Whitlow will be the starter but Reese Phillips could figure into playing mix this week

  • RJ says:

    Well! That pretty much solves that mystery. I hope Philips gets a shot and I reallllllly hope he does well. If not, get ready for the same old QB running game we have had for the last Three years.

  • RJ says:

    A second thought. Having not lived through and payed for tickets for the Joker Philips era, I do not think Stoops and Brown have a real appreciation for fan disgust for over QB run offense seen at KY the past few years.

  • Georgia Blue says:

    I say rest Whitlow and start Philips, because we should be able to control the line of scrimmage and run Kemp and Sanders. Just ride our RBs this game because both should go over a 100yds for this game and Reese wouldn’t have that much pressure on him. Just saying that what i would do this game.

    • RJ says:

      I think the coaches want to get a lead and take as much pressure off of Philips as they can. He’s a Freshman. I’ve liked everything I’ve seen about the kid but he has never been in a real game. Big difference. Otherwise, I agree with you.

  • Ira says:

    ‘Bout time we start hearing another QB besides Max Smith. I hate it for the kid, and I was rooting for him, thought he was really going to be the answer for Brown’s Air Raid offense. But after seeing the MS ST game, just think we have to move on.

    Don’t know what is going on with Towles, he may still want to RS, but if it’s not that and he can’t unseat a busted shoulder QB who got the start at MS ST, a true freshman that is showing up better everyday in practice, maybe it’s time he does look at other options. Either Div 2 or another Conf like the MAC or Conf USA.

    Really wish we had the MS ST game as a do over. If Phillips is performing this well it would have been a good time to bring him out with that 12 day layoff. Brown could have game planned very well for him as the starter in that game. But oh well.

    Looking forward to this next game. If Whitlow can’t play, it will be a good D for phillip’s to get his nose wet against, cause Mizzou’s pass D ain’t no slouch.

    • RJ says:

      If we had the MS St game to do over we would have still lost. Those dropped passes would still be dropped, the missed defensive assignments would have still been missed. We lost because we could not get MS State off the field on 3rd down.

  • Mick Murrell says:

    I have thought for sometime that it made little sense to redshirt both Towles and Phillips.
    I’m glad to break the redshirt on Phillips as I believe he has the best feel for the offense we are attempting to operate. I like the spirit and attitude that Phillips brings to the huddle. I thought this would have happened for the Miss Stake game, but in retrospect, giving him some playing time first against Bama State makes more sense.

    Let’s split the playing time between Phillips and Whitlow and let the chips fall where they may. We might all be pleasantly surprised. Together they may be able to achieve a couple of more wins this year.

  • Little Baron says:

    AT LAST… but why is Whitlow still in the picture!!!???

    Yes, RJ… this staff does NOT realize how frustrated fans are with 7 games looking SO MUCH like Joker’s offense.

    Yes, to those who are ready for a new QB. Smith is INJURED and Whitlow is NOT a passing QB… so take the red shackles off of a redshirt QB. I agree with the Professor that it should be Towles, but am thrilled if Stoops & Brown even look in the Yellow Pages for a PASSING QUARTERBACK!!!

    Time TO MOVE ON… awaken from the “stooper” of sluggish offense and go AIR RAID!!!

    • RJ says:

      Careful what you wish for LB. These are the same receivers, same O line, the same defense, and the same running backs that have won but one game this year. The best thing Philips can do is manage the game in such a manner that the offense chews up a lot of clock, score and keep the defense off the field. If so, he might end up the winning QB.

      We’ll never know for sure why it was Philips instead of Towles. Could be that Towles didn’t want to give up the R-shirt. More likely, Philips looked more consistent in practice. I saw him play twice. In both games he made a habit of not pressing a bad position. Coaches like that. You never know what a Freshman is going to do in a real game however. Give him some time. He will need it.

  • Little Baron says:

    FALSE ALARM…
    After re-reading the article & Stoops’ quotes, I realize the coach has plans just as clear as ObamaCare. Whitlow is starting and Phillips has only had a “few” reps… ie. This staff is going to waste yet another game using a …

    DOUBLE-INJURED NON-PASSING QUARTERBACK

    Enough said. This staff is dead set on playing a repeat of Joker’s last year.
    Season over.

    Message to UKAA…
    Please unfurl & re-hang the annual banner “Wait ’til NEXT YEAR”

  • RJ says:

    To Reese Philips: If you get the shot, just take what the defense gives you. Don’t try to be a hero.

  • Ira says:

    LB,

    Pretty harsh statements for this staff. If you had read and listened to Coach Stoops, he said, and I’ll paraphrase, ” Whitlow was starting to progress where we wanted him to be. Started to really step up as a leader, making decision, etc, then got injured in the Bama game and we took a step back with him.”

    The coaching staff sees something you and many others don’t. They thought Maxwell Smith could perform adequate in the MS ST game and we can’t get that from him. He may do well in practice, heck sounds like he has plenty of times and then kinda flops in games. Sounds mental on his part. Thinking to much, instead playing the game and being worried about HS bum shoulder. Like I said hate it for the kid, sounds like Coach Stoops is moving on.

    But we still need a good backup QB and they didn’t say Max was or wasn’t the backup actually. Phillips is just getting more reps In case he has to go in. Personally I think and nothing to back it up, this staff doesn’t think Maxwell Smith is a viable backup any longer ergo Reese Phillips getting more snaps.

    Maybe they really thought they really could coach Maxwell Smith up enough thru this year. But the struggles has continued. Admittedly not all has been his fault. He has had dropped passes on really good throws, and that will shake the confidence of a young QB already struggling. We have young very young WR’s that struggle to get open at times. OL that hasn’t been the best in giving him time. It is what it is though. Hopefully it gets worked out in this upcoming game

    • RJ says:

      Some very thoughtful comments Ira. You are certainly right about what the coaches are thinking. And, if so, I think they are making a huge mistake. The BBN has seen enough Morgan Newton, et al, running the football for three yards and cloud of dust for a life time. Personally, I think it’s the most boring offense you can come up with . I think it would be different if we were winning but we are not. Tell of one SEC team that is winning with a Whitlow running the ball and cannot throw consistantly. I’m getting to old to watch boring football and I suspect the other fans are as well. I would like to see some excitement before they send me to the cremitorium.

  • Andy says:

    Its good to hear Reese is in consideration. I am not sure how this affects Towles but to be 4th on the depth chart is never good. Max is just not an option anymore and his arm just does not seem the same and while he maybe good in practice, it does not translate on the field. If Jalen is not good to go, its def time to plug Reese in.

  • Anonymous says:

    Come on down Reese and take the job…it’s yours, make the most of it!

  • Little Baron says:

    Ira & RJ…
    Valid & solid points.
    Maxwell was probably mentally “damaged” by a lot of dropped passes early on, taking a toll on confidence. Ultimately, the injury was the undoing of his passing. He probably should never have been back in a game this year after the injury.

    Harsh? You’re right about that Ira… I would not make a good politician (& thankful no to be one!) because I call it like I see it without any reservation or concern for being PC. I do want this staff to succeed but they are so far an instant replay of Joker ball. As RJ says, we have had our full of Morgan Newton QB shows. Every kid on the playground, even the obvious big bruiser kid who is a natural lineman, “dreams” of being the QB – but this is college where a free education is given and where he potential professional careers o team-mates can be made or lost – with much due to who is the QB. Sometimes, if the coaches are not willing to make the right decision, the player just may need to step up and declare he is not a real QB and wants to be used where its best for the team – and in Whitlow’a case, where he will have a better shot at a pro career… The BBN knows its not at QB. Under an equivalent/parallel situation, Calipari would prepare a Whitlow for a future after college by developing him at a different position, using rarely at QB in the WildCat. Look at Cobb.

    • Mick Murrell says:

      Would you care to compare on contrast Newton and Whitlow? I see little in common between the two.

  • Randy Jenkins says:

    I know that publically it has been stated that Towles has asked for the redshirt but if I were him this would be getting to my head.

  • RJ says:

    Both should have played tight end or power receiver. Whitlow has quicker feet. Neither can throw consistantly. Newton had no idea where the ball was going to end up when he let it fly. Whitlow is just inaccurate.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m not sure your comment on Jalen is exactly on the money. On passes he is 51-77-1. ESPN ranks him ahead of the starting quarterbacks at Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn. He is the seventh rated QB in the Conference and #35 in the country. Now I’m not trying to sell you on Jalen being our QB, but he is no Morgan Newton. And for where this team is right now, he is at least adequate in the position. And from my perspective with the type receivers we have had in the last four years, I’m not sure you are going to see any QB in the stables the last four years do much better than that.

  • Glenn Fohr says:

    So, are we just writing Towles off?

    • Mick Murrell says:

      For this season I believe we are writing off Towles. Next year the competition is among Whitlow, Towles and Phillips. Barker enters the picture only if two of these three fail. Barker is a fine talent, but only the very elite get a chance their freshman year.

  • Little Baron says:

    DITTO to RJ

    Both Jalen Whitlow & Morgan Newton are versatile & probably stronger than Randall Cobb, but not as quick and elusive as Cobb. Whitlow can be effective in a seldom run WildCat formation with the possibility of a very short pass to a TE or running back, but simply not a complete QB. Why try to force the square peg into a round hole when there are square holes which will serve a better purpose. It’s best for Whitlow AND the team to use Whitlow somewhere besides QB. He would possibly even be a big help on D since he would have some idea of what a QB is thinking.

  • Jim Harris says:

    Little Baron, I see you’re still using this forum to take shots at “Obamacare”. Give it a rest. I doubt that anyone here cares about your politics.

    Back to football. Several of Stoops’ recent remarks seem to suggest that Whitlow ought to suck it up and play thru some pain. This feeling on the coach’s part could certainly influence his planning for the player’s future as a UK QB. If Jalen isn’t getting the message by now, I count him out.

    What the hell is wrong with Patrick? Too much fun and games that ain’t football? Lack of willingness to work (something he wasn’t required to do in HS)? We shouldn’t be in a position of having to wait for Barker right now. Wish I knew why he’s not cutting it since I know it’s not lack of latent talent.

  • RJ says:

    If what the coaches are saying is accurate then they are looking for QB consistancy. Ergo inconsistancy will earn you time on the bench. IMO that is probably why Towles was not selected. Now, what is causing the inconsistancy is another matter. Could be extracurricular activity or he is not accustomed putting forth the effort it takes to get better at this level or a lack of motivation. When they put the red shirt on him, he might have taken a vacation. Who knows. For certain, he didn’t impress enough.

  • Little Baron says:

    The reference to Obamacare is an allegory, and actually a good one. No political position needs to be expressed about it since even the media and his own party are now acknowledging its failure. My whole point was to find an example that parallels the poor decisions being made for our WildCats. That is my concern – not DC.

    Even with a (very) few (short) passes for limited yardage, the stats may look ‘good’ but anyone who has watched UK football aimlessly ramble around under Joker fully realizes we are either watching a very slightly upgraded video those teams. How can any real fan of UK football be satisfied with the unimpressive offense put on the field week after week? It is what it is… sad.

    • Mick Murrell says:

      Damn, I’ve read the comments to this article 5 times and haven’t seen the person who is satisfied with football. Please help me.

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