Quaterback battle to continue in 2013



By Nick Gray | @KyKernelGray

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The roller coaster at quarterback was set aside last season among storylines that included Joker Phillips’ impending termination as head coach, sagging attendance and Taylor Wyndham’s beard.

Now that defensive-minded head coach Mark Stoops has been hired, and his defensive coordinator reportedly set, the focus returns to the offensive side of the football, where inconsistency last season was a result of a revolving door at quarterback.

Three quarterbacks started at least one game for the Cats in 2012, which does not include freshman Patrick Towles, who was handed the keys to the offense during four games last season.

Three quarterbacks (Towles, freshman Jalen Whitlow and sophomore Maxwell Smith) return to the roster in 2013, each with multiple years of eligibility remaining.

Stoops has already indicated his offense of choice.

“We’re going to have an offense you’re going to be proud of. We’ll get out there and rip it around it a little bit. We are going to throw it,” Stoops said at his introductory press conference. “I want somebody that has a plan, that’s been successful, and we have to be creative. We will have a physical presence about us, but we will spread it out and use some bells and whistles, get the run game going and, again, be a little bit creative.”

The slate is wiped clean with a new coaching staff. The offense will likely be entirely new from the one in 2012, predicated on who Stoops hires as offensive coordinator. Each quarterback has a style that seems to fit in a spread offense in different ways.

Whitlow started the final seven games for UK last season, struggling to find consistent success throwing the ball. Whitlow’s biggest asset is his mobility, which kept plays alive and extended drives in ways the other two quarterbacks cannot.

Whitlow ran for three touchdowns and was the Cats’ third leading rusher last season.

Towles played in a spread style offense at Highlands (Ky.) High School, leading his team to a state championship in his senior year. Towles’ fit is in a spread which does not rely heavily on a mobile quarterback.

Former head coach Joker Phillips planned to redshirt Towles before the injury to starting quarterback Maxwell Smith forced Towles into action.

Smith led the Cats in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage last season even though he played in four games.

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders tailored the offense towards Smith, an attack based in the spread but relying on short to intermediate passes.

The issue with Smith is durability. Last season, Smith was injured two plays into his fourth game, suffering a season-ending ankle injury that required surgery.

The injury happened a week after Smith sat out against Florida with a shoulder injury that was similar to the injury which forced him to the sidelines for the final game of 2011.

Each quarterback has experience in the spread, but a spread that predicates success off of the pass and not the run option seems to favor Smith and Towles, who are not as mobile as Whitlow.

No matter who becomes offensive coordinator, spring practice will bring along a familiar storyline: Competition at quarterback.