LEXINGTON, Ky. -- University of Kentucky football offensive coordinator Randy Sanders has been a busy man over the last few days as he begins to prepare true freshman quarterbacks Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles for Kentucky’s Southeastern Conference battle with No. 19/20 Mississippi State on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
Head coach Joker Phillips announced Monday that starting quarterback Maxwell Smith required surgery in his ankle which would keep him out indefinitely. Whitlow came off the bench last week to fill in for Smith, finishing 12-of-23 for 114 yards and a rushing touchdown. Towles, who initially was going to redshirt this season, has been called into duty since the injury. Sanders said Tuesday both will play on Saturday.
“Yeah, I have a few things to do,” Sanders joked after practice Tuesday. “I hate it for Max and I really hate it for our offensive team, but at the same time it’s turning over a new leaf a little bit. We had to do it last year when Morgan got hurt and play with a freshman and I have done it several time in the past. It is a challenge for everyone and obviously they have to step up and do their part, but the other 10 guys have to really do their part as well. We lost a guy that can make everybody’s job a little easier and we lost a guy that can erase some mistakes. But both of these guys can erase mistakes in their own way. It will be exciting one way or another.”
Sanders said both quarterbacks do some good things on the field, although he would not go into detail on the specific plan for Saturday. Sanders said it would be key for the UK staff to play to each player’s strengths.
“I have thoughts in my head, but a lot of that is going to be determined on how they are going to practice today, tomorrow and Thursday,” Sanders said when asked if he knew how the quarterback situation would look Saturday. “Not only how they practice, but the answers they give me in meetings and how they respond. You try to play to each guy’s strength. Obviously, Jalen (Whitlow) has some things he does very well and I am sure Patrick (Towles) has some things, once I get to work with him more and see what those are. We are going to try to put them in positions to do the things they do well. I am sure there will be some overlap, but there will be differences in there also.”
As for how both quarterbacks did in practice Tuesday, Sanders described it as “alright.” Sanders said the hardest part for both players probably will be the speed of the game and ability to make quick decisions.
“They understand for the most part what to do; now actually doing it is the next thing,” Sanders said. “On the board, they can tell you what they are supposed to do and what everybody is supposed to do. When it starts happening fast and you have 2.5 seconds to get back there read the defense, make the decision, get the ball out of your hands while avoiding the rush or finding the man to throw it to is their challenge.”