We spent a good 20 minutes chatting with Dan Mullen today as another game week gets cranked up. The No. 20-ranked Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 SEC) travel to Lexington this weekend to play Kentucky (1-4, 0-2), and the big news from up there is that starting QB Maxwell Smith is out indefinitely and will require ankle surgery. That means freshman Jalen Whitlow will start, and his backup will be another frosh, Patrick Towles.
So that’ll make the game-planning even more challenging for MSU’s coaches.
Of Towles, a highly rated prospect out of high school, Mullen said, “Looks like a winner when you watch him on film in high school. Has all the tools: Can run, has size, good decision-making, strong arm. For us, you’ve got to kind of prepare for both.”
Whitlow has some experience, and he played most of last week’s game versus South Carolina after Smith was injured. Whitlow completed 12 of 23 passes for 114 yards and two interceptions.
“From what you saw with him, he threw the ball really well, even thought they didn’t make it complicated on him,” Mullen said. “Just kept it simple and let him play with talent. A lot of times when you go with a true freshman, you’re going to let them play with talent and let them play off their emotion and their excitement. And they can make a lot of things happen as they go, because you’re keeping it as simple as possible for them.”
Now, let’s hit up a few more highlights from today’s presser.
• Injury report: “We’re pretty much status quo with the injuries. (Cornerback) Cedric Jiles is probably doubtful with the broken hand, that will be a couple more weeks before we know about him. (Tight end) Malcolm Johnson and (right guard) Tobias Smith are questionable, and (defensive lineman) Devin Jones will be questionable with the shoulder he hurt at Wednesday’s practice right before the last game. Those three guys will all be questionable this week. But we’ll see how the week goes at practice with those guys.”
• Speaking of Johnson, who’s been out all season with a pectoral injury: “He hasn’t done any live stuff yet so he still has some recovery time left, the adaptation time to get back in it. He hasn’t played any football since last April. So I think it will be a slower process, it’s not like hey get back in there and go. Basically his training camp has started now and everybody else is half-way through the season.”
• And speaking of Smith, who’s missed the last two games as coaches protect that knee, will he start Saturday, or will Justin Malone? “We’ll wait until warmups. I want to see how Tobias is and how he’s feeling, how confident he is with everything going on. If he feels really confident and 100 percent, then you probably go with him. If he’s not, you’re probably going to go with Justin.”
• On playing Kentucky, which led South Carolina 17-7 before losing 38-17 on Saturday: “Obviously we’re playing a team that has got some talent. They played with a lot of emotion in the first half, they played really well and made a bunch of plays and had a good halftime lead on the No. 6 team in the country. So we’re going to have our hands full going up there at their place. It will be a big game.”