October 1, 2012 10:36:47 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- University of Kentucky freshman quarterback Patrick Towles meet Mississippi State University coach Dan Mullen.
Neither party must have envisioned this scouting introduction would've taken place for at least another year as the plan was for the he Parade All-America selection, "Mr. Football" for the state of Kentucky and Gatorade player of the year in the state to replicate the career path of MSU junior Tyler Russell.
Mullen knows how a season can get away from the Kentucky (1-3, 0-2 in Southeastern Conference) program forcing Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips to speed up the debut of Towles.
The decision in Lexington, Ky., became much clearer when sophomore starting quarterback Maxwell Smith is out Saturday with a torn ligament in his ankle that will require surgery.
"We'll have to play them both quarterbacks (Towles and projected starter Jalen Whitlow)," Phillips said Monday. "It's going to take an effort of both of them. 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 (and) give them a chance to go out and play and compete."
Mullen felt the exact same way in his first season during a home loss to the University of Houston when he admittedly "had seen enough" and wanted to play Tyler Russell as a true freshman over then veterans Tyson Lee and Chris Relf.
"We almost did that with Tyler Russell a couple of years ago and if we had done it, it was over - he was the guy the rest of the way," Mullen said Monday. "Actually a quick turnover I think prevented that from happening, and I calmed down on the sidelines, and I decided to redshirt him. You make that decision, especially with a week of practice, you're making the decision to get him ready and go with him."
Mullen and the MSU defensive coaching staff may have to gameplan against a quarterback that doesn't have one second of action in his college career.
"We've watched some high school film on him," Mullen said. "He's a complete quarterback, throws the ball really well being their state player of the year."
Due to the lack of knowledge MSU will have on Towles and only a game and a half film to evaluate on Whitlow, the coaching staff admitted strategic adjustments may have to be made on the fly during possessions with secondary coach Tony Hughes in the press box breaking down the tendencies of the offense. The style will likely be two different philosophies depending on which Wildcats player is behind center Saturday when UK (1-3, 0-2 in SEC) hosts No. 20 MSU (4-0, 1-0) at Commonwealth Stadium (11:21 a.m., SEC Network).
"We do a great job in the box of charting keys up in the box and this week will be huge for that to be precise," MSU linebackers coach Geoff Collins said Monday. "What we will focus on this week in practice is letting your fundamentals and natural instincts take you to the football no matter what they are running. Then we'll try and narrow down how to predict what they're doing."
MSU's defensive veterans admitted Monday they simply can't wait to rattle the two inexperienced signal callers trying to slow things down for Kentucky. The game plan might be incredibly similar to what the Bulldogs tried to show Auburn Kiehl Frazier in his first SEC start at Davis Wade Stadium in the second week of the season. The result was a 28-10 victory over the Tigers leaving Frazier just 13-of-22 for 125 yards and three interceptions.
"We're looking forward to seeing freshmen because our coaches will come up with packages to confuse them with our skill and experience in the secondary," MSU senior Darius Slay said. "It'll be hard because there's not too much film on them but we'll find a way to pressure them to get them to panic. Panic leads to big plays for our guys."
In his Sunday teleconference Mullen discussed the idea of having to plan his defense around two styles of quarterback play with the other true freshman in 6-foot-2 Jalen Whitlow being a more athletic player.
"He looked really athletic," Mullen said of Whitlow, who went 12-for-23 for 114 yards and two interceptions against No. 6 South Carolina. "It will be interesting to know whether he is going to be the guy, it looks like he might be the third quarterback in three weeks. He looked pretty athletic and made some plays, against a South Carolina team that is in the top-six and they had a lead at halftime."
The last time Kentucky started a true freshman at quarterback resulted in a 30-13 home victory in 2011 over a team from the Magnolia State (University of Mississippi) as Smith finished throwing for 283 yards, most ever by a Wildcats player in his first-ever game.
"It tells you that the future is bright, but we understand and we got to win now - okay, we got to win now," Phillips said. "We think those (freshmen) guys give us the best chance to win. That's the reason why they're playing (and) not because we're trying to build for the future."