Some quick thoughts on Maxwell Smith being lost probably for the rest of the season:
It’s a tough break for Maxwell Smith, who had worked hard over the summer to gain the starting position and had played, at least through three games, according to head coach Joker Phillips, “at as high a level of anyone I’ve been around in this phase of his career.”
In seven games as a starter, Smith has suffered a sprained shoulder twice and now has suffered ligament damage in his ankle. If the program isn’t snakebit — Phillips said he didn’t believe in that — then the California native appears to be, at least early in his career.
This is a big opportunity obviously for the two true freshmen, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles. Phillips said that the redshirt will be taken off Towles and that he will at least be the backup, though the coach said that Towles will play. How much of that is just trying to give Mississippi State something else to think about, we’re not sure. Then again, Phillips said he would not take the redshirt off of the former Highlands star if Towles was only going to play sparingly. So we’ll see what happens.
There’s no doubt that the offense will have to be tweaked some for Whitlow, based on what he showed Saturday night against South Carolina. The Alabama native is a better passer than you might imagine of someone who was recruited with the “athlete” tag. He doesn’t appear to be the shotgun, quick-throw quarterback, i.e. Max Smith, that the offense was tailored to exploit. Whitlow showed on a couple of long throws that he might be better at the deep ball than Smith. But it’s a small sample size.
Phillips did make one amendment to his post-game comments. The coach said that the staff might put in some more running plays for Whitlow. Monday, Phillips said that after watching the video from Saturday it may be that the freshman is a better runner when he scrambles out of the pocket. An example was the eight-yard touchdown in which Whitlow had the presence to pump-fake a defender, then go around him and into the end zone. Instead of turning to a zone-read offense, the staff may encourage Whitlow to make a quick read and, if nothing’s there in the passing game, then go.
As for Towles, those who have been clamoring for Mr. Football to get a shot, here’s his shot. Whitlow beat the Kentucky native out in the fall partly based on his ability to “extend the play”, according to Phillips. The coach admitted Monday that Towles may fit the current offensive scheme a little better. Like Smith, Towles is more of a pocket passer.
At the end of today’s presser, I asked Phillips this: I know it has to be a scary feeling going with two true freshmen at quarterbacks, but is there an element of excitement, too? After all, the big question with a true freshmen is whether to play him or not. Now, you have to play the first-year guys. Is it a case now of, “Ok, let’s see what we’ve got?”
Phillips agreed, but added this: “I can tell you this, the team we’re playing has no idea what they’re about to get. We really don’t know what we’re about to get. We’re gonna go for it, alright.”
Update: Here’s someone else who is excited, Paul Myerberg of USA Today:
Hugely excited to watch Patrick Towles suit up for Kentucky on Saturday. Supreme talent. UK’s best QB recruit since Tim Couch, say most.
— Paul Myerberg (@PreSnapRead) October 1, 2012