UK football: Three quarterbacks means adjusting on the fly at Missouri

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 27, 2012 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

One quarterback is constantly on the run.

Another quarterback is known as a pocket passer.

A third quarterback does a little bit of everything, but is being used mostly in red-zone situations.

And all three are expected to play on Saturday when Kentucky heads to Missouri.

It might make UK difficult to defend, but it also makes life difficult on the Cats' players and coaches.

"It makes it complicated at the end of the day," senior wide receiver La'Rod King said when asked about the challenge of working with two or three quarterbacks within the same game. "They're all different timing. They all think different."

But it's what Kentucky's having to work with as it tries to keep the offense moving with potentially three different play callers in Jalen Whitlow, Morgan Newton and Patrick Towles.

Coaches have said that Whitlow will start on Saturday, but they expect to put Towles, who is coming back from a high ankle sprain, in early and often.

Newton, who was inserted in red-zone situations against Georgia, likely will have a few packages like that in this game as well.

It's all enough to make an offensive coordinator's head spin.

Randy Sanders said he went through something similar in 2004 at Tennessee when he went through three different starters before the end of the season, but he never had to prep for three in one game.

Look for Whitlow and Towles to each get some series, focusing on trying to use their strengths to move the Cats' offense. But they likely won't be going in and out in the middle of the same series, Coach Joker Phillips said.

"When we first started, actually the Mississippi State game when we were trying to figure out Jalen's and Patrick's packages, we considered that," he said. "We thought we could possibly do that. Now, they both know about the same, so we'll give them series instead of plays now."

But much like UK's offensive stars, the coaches are learning to adjust on the fly.

"That's football," Phillips said. "You have to make changes. That's the thing about coaching, you've got to be able to adjust."

More QB questions

Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter said he'll believe it when he sees it, but Missouri has indicated it will have to play without star quarterback James Franklin this weekend as he continues to recover from a sprained knee ligament.

Does the UK coordinator consider it a break that dual threat Franklin, who threw for close to 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and 15 scores, is likely out?

"A break?" Minter asked sarcastically. "When is it that we would catch a break?"

Coaches said the defense is preparing for backup Corbin Berkstresser, who runs the offense similarly to Franklin.

"They've recruited to their system," Phillips said of Mizzou, adding that Berkstresser "doesn't have the mobility that Franklin does, but we'll still have to prepare the same way, just have to prepare more for the down-the-field throws a little bit more."

In six games so far this season, Berkstresser has passed for 627 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He's completed 54 of his 113 attempts and he's rushed for two touchdowns.

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said the Tigers still are looking for consistency from the redshirt freshman.

"But with that being said, the better that people play around him, the easier it is for a young quarterback to get in there and improve," Pinkel said. "He's working hard and we'll see where it goes."

More carries for Mobley?

After regularly saying it wants to get more carries for freshman running back Dyshawn Mobley, but failing to do so, Phillips said the staff has worked out a plan to get him in the game more.

"We'll see if we can get him four, five, six," Phillips said. "He needs to get carries because he's such a talented guy. He's got a great attitude and is playing really well for us on special teams."

Previously, the plan had been to give one of UK's junior backs, Raymond Sanders or Jonathan George, a rest by using Mobley, who has rushed 20 times for 90 yards.

But the Cats never had any sustained drives long enough that they needed a break. Plus they were having some success, leading Kentucky to a season-best 206 yards on the ground.

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