Many fans are assuming that the quarterback competition is just coach speak and that sophomore Jalen Whitlow’s performance in the spring game has essentially secured him the starting job. I don’t believe that’s the case at all. We have to remember that the new staff has completely overhauled the offensive schemes and formations and that the spring game was less than five months into the new staff’s tenure. The starting quarterback is unlikely to be named until at least the mid-way point in camp and today, I’m doing a quick recap of the contenders. For all purposes intended, we’re assuming freshman Reese Phillips redshirts this season.
#13 – Jalen Whitlow – So
Prior to the sprig game, most thought Whitlow was destined for a move to wide receiver. While that’s not completely our of the question due to a lack of depth at the position, his play at quarterback showed marked improvement and he solidified himself as a legitimate candidate in April. Now, its time for everyone to take a deep breath. Whitlow is only a sophomore and wasn’t even the starting quarterback his senior year of high school. His athletic ability allowed him to look very good in game action, but remember that he knew the defense couldn’t touch him. Considering his propensity to melt user pressure last season (not uncommon for freshmen signal callers), the safety of the red jersey could have seriously improved his play. His obvious upside is his athleticism. If he can win the job, his speed can bail him out of tough situations and force the defense to cover receivers for longer periods of time. To win the job though, Whitlow will need to show accuracy, an understanding of the new offense, and poise under pressure.
#11 – Maxwell Smith – Jr
It’s a shame that he has struggled so mightily with injuries, because Maxwell Smith has shown flashes of absolute brilliance at times. His command of the offense and ability to make the necessary throws made him look like a steal early last year, but for the second straight season he finished the campaign up on the sideline. Smith has NFL size, ideal accuracy for the offense, and more than enough arm strength. Maybe more importantly, he’s a leader and the team seems to really believe in him. While some are writing him off already, Smith is the prototypical quarterback for the air raid offense and should be considered a serious contender for the starting job. If be can stay healthy, don’t be surprised at all if he wins it.
#14 – Patrick Towles – So
When he signed with Kentucky, most fans (myself included) saw Towles as the future of the program. He was a proven winner in high school and came into Lexington as a Parade All-American with an NFL body and a howitzer for a arm. The on-field product has yet to live up to expectations, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t. A subpar showing this spring has most assuming Towles is in a distant third for the starting job, but its important to remember that this was only one game. Towles was thrown to the fire as a freshman when he should have been redshirted all along and it essentially wasted a year of eligibility for him. Now Towles has been in the offense for almost twice as much time as he had been this spring and could really surprise when camp rolls around. He has all the tools you look for in a SEC quarterback, he just has to get his head on straight (who doesn’t at 19). Ideally, if he does not win the starting job, Towles would redshirt this season and hit the playbook hard preparing himself for next year.
Regardless of what happened this spring or any preconceived notions, its important to remember that this is still a three horse race until the staff says otherwise. All three quarterback candidates bring something different to the table, so who wins the job may ultimately come down to who Offensive Coordinator Neal Brown wants to build his offense around.