Randy Sanders Talks Whitlow, Towles After Tuesday's Practice
Oct. 2, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- University of Kentucky football offensive coordinator Randy Sanders has been a busy man over the last few days as he begins to prepare true freshman quarterbacks Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles for Kentucky's Southeastern Conference battle with No. 19/20 Mississippi State on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
Head coach Joker Phillips announced Monday that starting quarterback Maxwell Smith required surgery in his ankle which would keep him out indefinitely. Whitlow came off the bench last week to fill in for Smith, finishing 12-of-23 for 114 yards and a rushing touchdown. Towles, who initially was going to redshirt this season, has been called into duty since the injury. Sanders said Tuesday both will play on Saturday.
"Yeah, I have a few things to do," Sanders joked after practice Tuesday. "I hate it for Max and I really hate it for our offensive team, but at the same time it's turning over a new leaf a little bit. We had to do it last year when Morgan got hurt and play with a freshman and I have done it several time in the past. It is a challenge for everyone and obviously they have to step up and do their part, but the other 10 guys have to really do their part as well. We lost a guy that can make everybody's job a little easier and we lost a guy that can erase some mistakes. But both of these guys can erase mistakes in their own way. It will be exciting one way or another."
Sanders said both quarterbacks do some good things on the field, although he would not go into detail on the specific plan for Saturday. Sanders said it would be key for the UK staff to play to each player's strengths.
"I have thoughts in my head, but a lot of that is going to be determined on how they are going to practice today, tomorrow and Thursday," Sanders said when asked if he knew how the quarterback situation would look Saturday. "Not only how they practice, but the answers they give me in meetings and how they respond. You try to play to each guy's strength. Obviously, Jalen (Whitlow) has some things he does very well and I am sure Patrick (Towles) has some things, once I get to work with him more and see what those are. We are going to try to put them in positions to do the things they do well. I am sure there will be some overlap, but there will be differences in there also."
As for how both quarterbacks did in practice Tuesday, Sanders described it as "alright." Sanders said the hardest part for both players probably will be the speed of the game and ability to make quick decisions.
"They understand for the most part what to do; now actually doing it is the next thing," Sanders said. "On the board, they can tell you what they are supposed to do and what everybody is supposed to do. When it starts happening fast and you have 2.5 seconds to get back there read the defense, make the decision, get the ball out of your hands while avoiding the rush or finding the man to throw it to is their challenge."
Sanders and the rest of the UK staff will take one of the hardest jobs off the quarterback's shoulders Saturday as Kentucky will continue to run its no-huddle offense. Sanders said keeping that style will help eliminate communication mistakes.
"A lot of time the hardest thing for the young guys is getting the play called right in the huddle," Sanders said. "If you don't have to worry about that then it makes it easier. Just like against Tennessee when we played in the pistol (formation) the whole time because we didn't have to worry about teaching Matt (Roark) how to take a snap. Anything you can eliminate and make it easier for them than you try to do."
Defensive coordinator Rick Minter, who has also dealt with youth and injuries this season - including safety Dakotah Tyler out for the season with a ACL injury - has another talented offense to prepare for this weekend. Mississippi State ranks 35th nationally in scoring offense and 46th in rushing offense.
"About 185 yards worth of running and about 215 yards a game passing," Minter said when asked what problems Mississippi State presented. "They are 4-0 and a good football team and well-coached. They pride themselves on the physical toughness of their play because of the style of play that they run. It's kind of a gap blocking, zone blocking team with big guys up front and a good, solid passing game. We have our hands full but we are looking forward to the challenge.
"They are a complete team," Minter said. "They have a veteran quarterback that is throwing the ball better than he was at this time a year ago. You mix that with a good, solid, tough-nosed approach of their coach and the way they like to play and they will bring it."
Minter had some good news as junior defensive lineman Mister Cobble did participated in practice Tuesday but is still listed as day-to-day. Minter also said with the loss of Tyler, he expects senior Martavius Neloms to see extended time at safety.
Downtown Shuttle Change for Saturday's Game: Due to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in downtown Lexington on Saturday, there are some changes to downtown shuttle program for Saturday. Fans wishing to utilize the downtown shuttle need to park in the Rupp Arena parking lot on High Street and avoid the Transit Center Garage area on Vine Street due to the race. Fans should access the Rupp Arena parking area via High Street. The foot race, which starts at 9 a.m. ET, will begin at Phoenix Park at East Main Street and connect to High Street via Grand Boulevard. The race will then turn off High Street at North Upper Street and take Short Street and Midland Avenue before connecting back to East Main Street.