Kentucky's Maxwell Smith needs surgery; Towles to help at quarterback

Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith watched most of the South Carolina game from the sideline after injuring his ankle early in the first quarter. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith watched most of the South Carolina game from the sideline after injuring his ankle early in the first quarter. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Kentucky starting quarterback Maxwell Smith is out indefinitely after tearing a ligament in his left ankle on Saturday, Coach Joker Phillips announced on Monday morning.

In his place to face unbeaten and 20th-ranked Mississippi State this weekend will be two true freshmen quarterbacks: Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles.

UK originally had planned to redshirt Towles this season, but has opted to let him play alongside Whitlow starting Saturday.

"We'll have to play them both," Phillips said. "It's going to take an effort of both of them. And it could be right in the middle of the series. If it's not series to series, it could be play after play after play, switching them in and out, give them things that they both can do, give them a chance to go out and play and compete."

Playing Whitlow, an athletic quarterback who can extend plays with his feet, and Towles, a true pro-style quarterback, will give Kentucky's offense a new look.

The Cats moved to a no-huddle, hurry up offense to try and best utilize Smith's abilities to get the ball out quickly and accurately.

"It is exciting because I can tell you this: The team we're about to play has no idea what they're about to get," Phillips said, before adding, "We really don't know what we're about to get, but we're going to go for it."

Smith's ankle was crushed on the second play of the game against South Carolina on Saturday and the ligament tear will require surgery, Phillips said. The sophomore quarterback, who completed 103 of 150 passes for 975 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions had been recovering from a separated shoulder against Western Kentucky.

"He's down, obviously," Phillips said when asked about how Smith is feeling. "He has worked his tail off to get in the position to be playing major college football."

He was "playing as high a level — probably as high as anybody I have been around at this phase of his career," Phillips said. "He understands it. It happens. We gotta get the next two guys ready to play."

After Smith went out against the Gamecocks, Whitlow played the rest of the game, completing 12 of 23 passes for 118 yards with two interceptions. Whitlow also ran for an 8-yard touchdown in the loss.

Whitlow impressed his head coach during the South Carolina game.

"He was as poised as I've ever seen a true freshman go in a game," Phillips said. "He was able to give us back information that we needed. ... I really liked what I saw in his eyes during the game."

Having that game experience of 61 snaps against one of the nation's best defenses last weekend helped Whitlow take a leap.

"Definitely it's something for him to build on," Phillips said. "Now we've got to get the other guy something to build on."

That other guy is Towles, the highly touted Mr. Football, who threw for 7,429 yards and 73 touchdowns while running for 1,718 yards and 38 more touchdowns on the ground in his career at Highlands. He led the Bluebirds to three state championships as a starter.

Towles is going to have to get up to speed in a hurry after not having practiced with the first or second teams. After UK made Whitlow the No. 2 quarterback behind Smith, Towles was moved to scout team quarterback.

"We'll see tomorrow exactly what he knows, how much he knows, but again, it's difficult when you haven't gotten any reps but we'll get him the reps this week to see how much he knows and what he can do," Phillips said.

But after watching Towles take leadership of the scout team, Phillips expects that he'll be fine in his new role.

"You see a guy that's really confident and a guy that's yelling, screaming and trying to get the scout team jacked up, and now we need him to get our number one in offense on that level," Phillips said. "He's been down on the scout team with them, so he's feeling comfortable in being vocal down there.

"Now we need him to be up with the ones. And he will be; that's his personality."

Speaking of personality, what kind of personality will these two new quarterbacks give the UK offense, Phillips was asked: "I hope they give them a winning personality, a personality that gets the ball in the end zone, but it's hard to say with a true freshman."

News and notes

Safety Dakotah Tyler is out for the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee against South Carolina. The junior had 12 tackles in five games this season as a reserve.

Running back CoShik Williams is still day to day with a strained muscle in his hip. Running back Raymond Sanders also is listed as day to day with a bruised knee. Junior Jonathan George is listed as No. 1 running back on new depth chart out Monday. Linebacker Miles Simpson is listed as day to day with a bruised knee. Offensive lineman Zach West (shoulder) is day to day, but looks better than he did on Saturday, Phillips said, adding that he should practice on Wednesday or Thursday.

Likely back in action this week will be linebacker Josh Forrest and safety Ashely Lowery.

■ Kentucky's game at Arkansas on Oct. 13 has been set for 7 p.m., and it will be shown on Fox Sports.

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