Heading into his first season as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, Mark Stoops had a quarterback dilemma on his hands. A trio of sophomores were in contention for the job, with the competition continuing into fall practice.
The coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Neal Brown, made a decision about 10 days before the opening game, and the players were told who the winner was, but the public did not know until the Wildcats took the field for the first time.
When it was time for the Big Blue to go on offense against Western Kentucky, it was Jalen Whitlow getting the starting nod for Kentucky, over fellow sophomore Maxwell Smith.
Kentucky has high hopes for its offense this season, with Brown bringing the “Air Raid” offense back to the Bluegrass. The same offense that made Tim Couch the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
However, Kentucky’s passing game will not take off with Whitlow at quarterback. Fans saw that on Saturday. Whitlow played three quarters and had only 78 passing yards.
That’s one of the reasons why Stoops changed course this week, and is starting Smith in Saturday’s game against Miami (Ohio). Smith was impressive in his one quarter of play against Western Kentucky, completing 8-of-13 through the air for 125 yards and a touchdown. That’s the type of production that Brown and Stoops want to see from their quarterback in this offense.
There is still a place for Whitlow within the offense. Smith should be the primary quarterback, and should be the player in the game when a pass is needed. But Whitlow’s running ability and quickness should allow him to contribute to the offense as well.
Kentucky hopes that the quarterback change will spark the offense this weekend, and help the Big Blue get Stoops the first win of his coaching career.