The QB Quandary

Randy Sanders

The Kentucky staff continues to prepare freshman quarterback duo Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles for split duty on Saturday against Vanderbilt.

As Kentucky prepares to face Vanderbilt this week, one of the big questions facing the UK staff is how to manage to quarterback situation.

Patrick Towles returned to action last week at Missouri after missing three weeks with a high ankle sprain. The Wildcats planned ahead of time to insert him on their third series of the game and alternate with fellow freshman Jalen Whitlow, but the offense bogged down and failed to produce in a 33-10 loss to the Tigers.

Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips indicated on Monday that the Cats would continue to rotate quarterbacks against the Commodores, but the exact plan remains unclear.

"We will figure out exactly what the plan is as the week goes on," UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said following Tuesday's practice at the Nutter Field House. "It is always a hard thing (to determine)."

Many have criticized the staff for its handling of the rotation in the Missouri game. UK's offense had driven down the field for 110 yards and two scoring opportunities on its first two series of the game with Whitlow under center, but struggled after the change was made. The Cats managed only 69 net yards on their last 12 drives of the game.

"In hindsight, if I had something to do over again last week, I would have probably put Morgan (Newton) in the game because I thought that helped Jalen against Georgia," Sanders said. "When you start playing three of them, though, you can really break momentum sometimes."

After sophomore starter Maxwell Smith suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the South Carolina game, UK's quarterbacks have struggled to give the Cats a downfield passing threat. Kentucky has completed only 47.6 percent of its passes (40 of 84) for 449 yards and three touchdowns in the last four games.

Kentucky is currently ranked No. 105 out of 120 Division I teams in passing offense. The Cats are No. 113 in scoring at 18.22 points per game.

Sanders noted that Towles, who completed only one of four passes at Missouri and took one sack, has not had enough quality reps in practice or game experience to date. His only other appearance was Oct. 6 against Mississippi State, when he compled five of six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown before going down with the ankle injury.

"Once you get in the game and in that environment, things happen fast if you are really not prepared," Sanders said. "I think he was trying to get prepared and was working hard to get prepared, but his opportunities to get prepared this season have still been limited. He only had six real practices with the offense.

"It's common among everyone (not just quarterbacks). Once you get out there and the chaos starts, which until you have played a lot of ball and really prepared, a lot of it is chaos. Once you get in chaos you revert back to your training, and if your training hasn't been enough or you haven't done it long enough to where your training is to do things right all the time, then you will revert back to what you have always done."

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