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Here is what Kentucky coach Joker Phillips had to say Monday about UK’s quarterback situation going into Saturday’s game with South Carolina.
Question: Will you rethink how you will prep your No. 2 quarterback this week because Max Smith may not be able to go versus last week?
Phillips: “We’ve been prepping Jalen (Whitlow) to be our Number 2 since the Louisville game. We worked Morgan (Newton) to be the Number 2 going up to the Louisville game, but after the Louisville game we started prepping Jalen to be our Number 2. When Max went down, we just felt like he (Jalen) wasn’t ready, wasn’t quite ready to go in in that type of environment.
“I’ve been down there when we put a freshman quarterback in there, and it’s pretty tough. And we just felt like we wanted to start Morgan. And we did. Didn’t work out. Didn’t play as well as we would have liked. But we still think that that was the right decision.”
Question: If the game was at Commonwealth, would Jalen have started?
Phillips: Who knows. Again, still ‑‑ this is not just the environment. It’s the team that you’re playing against also. It’s a really good football team defensively. So who knows.”
Question: Did you just feel like you had one hand tied behind your back in that game?
Phillips: “No. I mean I didn’t feel that way. I just feel like we just couldn’t make a play. All we needed was a play here, play there. We had a couple of guys running open. We also missed some cuts, missed some blocks on the perimeter that would have given us a chance after we did catch the ball. But I don’t feel like we had our hands tied behind our back.”
Question: Did you rethink at all Patrick Towles as one of the starters?
Phillips: “I’m comfortable with where we’re at, because I think we’ll get Max back. That’s our feeling, that we’ll get Max back.”
“Again, we decided to allow Jalen to be our third, and we really think that Pat Towles will be a really good quarterback in time, and we just think that this is the best thing for him and for our program at this point.
Question: What’s the diagnosis on Max’s shoulder?
Phillips: “He just reaggravated an old injury from last year. So it was a deal where if he’d gotten hurt, ‑‑ if you’d have seen him in warmups, he wasn’t 100 percent and if he’d have gotten hurt, they think he could have been out for a significant time, and it wasn’t worth risking. It wasn’t worth risking, like I said on Saturday. I was treating him like he was ‑‑ you guys would want your son to be treated.”
Question: What exactly was the old injury that he re-aggravated?
Phillips: “His shoulder. He had a sprained shoulder, AC joint from last year.”
Question: If for whatever reason Max couldn’t go, do you know at this point if you would go with Morgan or Jalen?
Phillips: “No, don’t know at this point. But probably Jalen. I don’t know exactly if we go with Morgan or Jalen. But I think Jalen would probably deserve based on the way we performed Saturday. But again, we’ve gotta go through this week and see how everything works out.”
Question: How do you evaluate Max in terms of even day to day?
Phillips: “Again, we gotta evaluate ‑‑ we will not throw on Tuesday. We’ll see how well he performs on Wednesday and Thursday. Then make the decision based on that.”
Question: How do you go about getting Jalen enough reps to feel comfortable?
Phillips: “He’s getting the two reps. And again, we still gotta get Max the one reps. He can hand the ball off. So we still gotta get Max ready. So it’s hard to give either one of the guys 100 percent of the one reps. So we’ve gotta get him all of the two reps and some of the one reps. But we also have to get Max some of the reps. He can hand the ball off; he can make some of the checks in the pass game, but not throw the football. So there’s a lot of things that we still have to do with him, in case he is the guy on Saturday.”
Question: Do you need to get him more reps in games?
Phillips: ‘It is, yeah. We haven’t had an opportunity until this past game, and he got a few, not nearly enough. Not enough to make a difference.”