UK football: Whitlow returns to practice, but starting Smith still the plan

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 21, 2013 

Kentucky's Maxwell Smith passed in the fourth quarter of the Alabama at Kentucky football game at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 12, 2013. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

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  • Kentucky at Mississippi St.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

    Records: Kentucky 1-5 (0-3 SEC); Mississippi St. 3-3 (0-2 SEC)

    TV: ESPN

Replays made it look like a devastating injury as Jalen Whitlow's ankle unnaturally rolled up and under a bulky Alabama defender.

Nine days later, the sophomore quarterback was walking off the Kentucky practice field with just a mild limp and he could be a potential option for the Cats as they head to Mississippi State later this week.

"He's getting better," UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said of Whitlow. "Yeah, he's getting better. He's progressed really each day. Moved around probably a little better today than he did yesterday."

There's even a chance that Whitlow could be back in time to help against the Bulldogs on Thursday night, but for now, the plan is still to go with Maxwell Smith, who has seen a bulk of the reps.

"Really didn't know until probably yesterday what Jalen's status was gonna be," Brown said. "But Maxwell's been getting those starter's reps and Jalen's been getting the backup reps."

Brown has been on double duty game planning for the Bulldogs on Thursday, with a package in place for Smith and another for Whitlow, who is more of a running quarterback, but might be limited in his ability to run with the ankle sprain.

"I probably won't be able to tell until later in the week how much of it we're gonna use, or how much we'll be able to use," Brown said of the package in place for Whitlow, who has run 49 times for 238 yards and three touchdowns this season. "If he keeps progressing then I think he'll be fine on Thursday."

It didn't surprise Whitlow's teammates that the quarterback, who had just been named the full-time starter and took every snap at South Carolina, is back on the practice field even though his early prognosis did not make it sound like he would be.

"Jalen's a tough guy; he's a really tough guy," freshman running back Jojo Kemp said. "That's what I like about him as a quarterback."

Tight end Anthony Kendrick said he was amazed that Whitlow was able to bounce back from an ankle injury so quickly.

"But that's Jalen," he said. "I know how bad he wants to be out there to help us. He just makes sure he gets his treatments and make sure he gets better and better as far as that ankle. We just can't wait for him to get back out there."

But Kendrick said Smith is a "great quarterback" as well and that the office will flow smoothly through him, too.

After practice on Monday, Smith said he felt good after getting most of the first-string reps this week in practice.

"It feels better," Smith said. "A little more in rhythm. Yeah, it feels much better obviously than, you know, not getting really any reps. So, that's definitely a plus."

If something should happen to Smith and Whitlow, both Brown and head coach Mark Stoops said there is a third option at quarterback, but didn't divulge who that option is.

"We're working on a few guys, but it looks like Jalen or Max will be able to go," Stoops said at his weekly news conference on Monday afternoon.

Later that evening, after the second full practice back for Whitlow, Brown seemed confident that either Smith or Whitlow (or even both) will be enough and that neither Patrick Towles nor Reese Phillips will have to remove their red shirts this season.

"Hopefully it doesn't come to that, but in our business, you've got to kind of (prepare for the) worst-case scenario," Brown said. "So we've had those discussions and we've gotten a third quarterback some reps, also."

Notes

Freshman wide receiver Jeff Badet, who has been battling an undisclosed injury, is back and available to play on Thursday, Brown said. Badet dressed for the Alabama game, but didn't practice that week. He has caught just one pass (at South Carolina) since he led the Cats with six catches for 114 yards and a score versus Miami (Ohio).

Kentucky's game versus Alabama State on Nov. 2 will be played at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast Sports, the league office announced on Monday afternoon.


THURSDAY

Kentucky at Mississippi St.

When: 7:30 p.m.

Records: Kentucky 1-5 (0-3 SEC); Mississippi St. 3-3 (0-2 SEC)

TV: ESPN

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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