Cats preparing Towles for first action

Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders says this week's practice will be a challenge for the Wildcat offense with a pair of freshman quarterbacks splitting reps.

Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders confirmed Tuesday that freshman quarterback Patrick Towles will officially shed the redshirt and play in Saturday's game against Mississippi State.

Towles, the reigning Kentucky "Mr. Football" and a four-star signee out of Fort Thomas Highlands, was elevated on the depth chart after UK starter Maxwell Smith suffered an ankle injury in last week's game against South Carolina. Smith was scheduled for surgery today and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

"I have a few things to do," Sanders joked after this morning's practice at the Nutter Fieldhouse. "I hate it for Max, and I really hate it for our offensive team… We lost a guy that can make everybody's job a little easier, and we lost a guy who can erase some mistakes. But both of these guys (Towles and fellow freshman Jalen Whitlow) can erase mistakes in their own way. It will be excited one way or another."

Whitlow came off the bench last week against the Gamecocks, completing 12 of 23 passes for 114 yards. He also had a rushing touchdown, but was intercepted twice and sacked six times.

Towles, who passed for 3,820 yards and 42 touchdowns with only one interception as a senior at Highlands, represents the potential for more of a downfield passing attack. UK head coach Joker Phillips said on Monday that he expects to play both Whitlow and Towles against No. 19 Mississippi State on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Sanders said the gameplan will require the UK staff to be flexible and play to each quarterback'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. Not only how they practice, but the answers they give me in meetings and how they respond.

"We're 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."

Sanders described their performance in Tuesday's practice as "alright."

"They understand for the most part what to do," he added. "Now actually doing it is the next thing. 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."

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