Mark Stoops, the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, and Neal Brown, UK’s new offensive coordinator, face a tough decision during the spring and/or fall, picking the quarterback that will lead the Big Blue during the 2013 season.
The three candidates to take the job are all sophomores. Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow all saw action during the 2012 season, and all three showed some promise while Kentucky struggled through a 2-10 season.
Smith was the starter at the beginning of the season, and played well at times. He brings accuracy and game experience to the quarterback position for the Wildcats. Towles is the local product, a former Kentucky Mr. Football who brings a wealth of potential to the position. Many UK fans would love to see Towles as the starter in 2013.
And then, there’s Whitlow, who actually played in more games last season (10) than Smith and Towles combined. It was out of necessity that Whitlow was forced into action. Smith went down with a season-ending leg injury against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the fifth game of the season while Towles also suffered through injuries, which left Whitlow behind center for the majority of the 2012 campaign.
Whitlow did a satisfactory job in relief, connecting on 87-of-161 (54 percent) of his passes for 801 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions. He also rushed for 206 yards and three scores.
Of the three quarterbacks, Whitlow is by far the most mobile. He adds the scrambling element that can sometimes catch defenses off guard, and that also allows him to make the best of a broken play. However, Brown’s offense does not generally utilize the quarterback scramble, which could work against Whitlow in the UK signal-caller derby.
While Whitlow’s experience will keep him in the quarterback race, at least for the time being, there have been whispers of him changing position, perhaps moving to slot receiver. Whitlow could also be used as a change-of-pace quarterback, or in the Wildcat formation.
Whitlow appears to be the longshot of the three contenders at this point, but Stoops and Brown will probably try to find a way to get him on the field because of his playmaking ability. Only time will tell exactly what position Whitlow will be playing this fall.