Whitlow back on field; Smith preps to start

It appears Kentucky will not have to pull a redshirt off one of its young quarterbacks after all. At least for now.

It appears Kentucky will not have to pull a redshirt off one of its young quarterbacks after all. At least for now.

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said Monday that Jalen Whitlow has been able to practice on Sunday and Monday in preparation for the Wildcats' game on Thursday night at Mississippi State.

Whitlow suffered a badly sprained ankle on the second series of UK's 48-7 loss to Alabama on Oct. 12, and Stoops did not initially believe the sophomore starter would be back in time for the Cats' next game.

That meant preparing backup Max Smith for the starting assignment against the Bulldogs while getting Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips enough reps to handle the backup job if necessary. Both Towles, a sophomore, and Phillips, a freshman, have been slotted for redshirts this year.

"Maxwell's gotten most of the reps this week with the No. 1 offense, but it is nice to have Jalen back. He's practiced yesterday and today, and he seems to be getting better, so it's good to have him available," Stoops said Monday evening on his weekly radio call-in show.

"We should be able to get through this game with those two, hopefully," Stoops added.

Smith, also a sophomore, has played in five games this season, mostly in a backup role to Whitlow. He has completed 55 percent of his passes for 710 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception.

Stoops said the open date allowed Kentucky to heal from the bumps and bruises which had mounted during a four-game stretch against ranked opponents that culminated against No. 1 Alabama.

"It's been a good week, very productive week," Stoops said. "Had an opportunity to heal up a little bit, and also improve as a football team.

"I think coming off this stretch that we talked about before and being a little bit banged up and a little bit physically drained, I think having a chance to recoup physically and mentally I think should help us going into this game. I think our preparation has been very good. I feel like the team is in a good place right now. I feel like we're getting our legs back up underneath us."

Both the Bulldogs (3-3, 0-2 SEC) and the Wildcats (1-5, 0-3) will be seeking their first league win of the season in the 7:30 p.m. ET matchup on ESPN.

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for daily newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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