Kentucky QB Whitlow to transfer after nixing move to WR

jsmith3@herald-leader.comApril 16, 2014 


    When: Through April 26

    Where: Nutter Training Center (practices closed to public)

    Spring game: 3:30 p.m. April 26 at Commonwealth Stadium

When coaches go into the profession, there's no seminar on how to break a player's heart.

"That's not something they go over," Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Wednesday. "It's never fun. It's not something I enjoy. It's really one of the worst aspects."

But it was a conversation the UK coaches felt they had to have with Jalen Whitlow this week. Those talks ultimately led to the junior quarterback's decision to transfer.

Kentucky announced via a news release Wednesday morning that Whitlow, a 15-game starter and the Cats' most experienced returning quarterback, is planning to find a new school after finishing the spring semester academically.

Both Coach Mark Stoops and Brown met with Whitlow several times this week to tell him where they were with the quarterback competition among Whitlow, Reese Phillips, Patrick Towles and Drew Barker.

Whitlow, who accounted for 1,502 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, was asked if he had any interest in a position switch to wide receiver.

He decided he wanted to be a quarterback somewhere else, the coaches told the media after Wednesday's practice.

"Again, I don't look at it like he's throwing in the towel on us," Stoops said. "I wish he was here. I wanted him to stay here and play for Kentucky in some position. But he wants to play quarterback, so we understand that."

There were multiple conversations about the potential switch, but Whitlow wanted to stay at quarterback.

"I know Jalen was disappointed," Brown said. "I was hopeful that he would give it a try, but I understand where he's coming from."

Whitlow made strides in the off-season, but the coaches said they're getting more of what they want from the other three, who are still in a tight race for the starting spot.

"It came down to consistently making throws," Brown explained. "That's what it came down to. ... He made really good throws, but not on as consistent a basis as he needed to."

Whitlow made strides, but so did Barker, Phillips and Towles.

"He's talented and he does have the skill set to run the football, and throw it at times," Stoops said of Whitlow, who accounted for 36.7 percent of Kentucky's offense and nearly 40 percent of its touchdowns last season. "He's maybe not as consistent as we'd like to be in the pass game."

Whitlow was 2-13 as a starter at Kentucky with the two wins coming over Alabama State and Samford.

But Kentucky's successes and failures are not on the quarterback alone, Brown said.

"We didn't do enough as coaches and at other position groups," Brown said.

Stoops agreed.

"It's not all about the quarterback position," he said. "We needed to get better across the board. If Jalen was coming back here next year and being the quarterback and playing for us, we'd be a whole lot better than we were last year, just because the whole team should look better. It's not just on him."

Whitlow was not made available to the media, but in the release put out by the university, the junior said: "I appreciate the University of Kentucky and what the coaching staff and administration have done for me. I also thank the community and the fan support I have received here. I wish the coaches and my teammates the best of luck."

When asked about potential limitations placed on Whitlow's transfer options, Stoops said that was between him and Whitlow, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

As for the timing, Kentucky wanted to narrow the position race to get more repetitions for the remaining quarterbacks. The Cats have five more practices, including the Blue-White Spring Game on April 26 at Commonwealth Stadium.

"We've got to get it down to a manageable number," Brown said of the QB competition. "We're hoping to do that going into fall camp. I think that was part of the issues we had last year is we let it drag out too far and we didn't get enough quality reps for either Jalen or Max (Smith)."

Brown is confident that a starter will emerge, calling the quarterback situation "fluid" still.

"We're making progress," Stoops said. "We like where we're at. We're improving. We're getting it narrowed down."

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

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