No. 20 Bulldogs preparing to face 2 Kentucky QBs

No. 20 Bulldogs preparing to face 2 Kentucky QBs

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky players know what they'll get Saturday from No. 20 Mississippi State - defensive pressure.

The Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) rank in the top 15 in several defensive categories, including first in turnover margin (plus 13). They are physical up front, and senior cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay (seven combined interceptions) lead a veteran secondary.

Mississippi State just doesn't know which Kentucky quarterback it'll be defending.

Freshmen QB Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles will rotate under center for the Wildcats (1-4, 0-2) with starter Maxwell Smith sidelined due to an ankle injury. Towles will make his debut while Whitlow makes his first start, and Kentucky coaches aren't sure how they'll respond to the unusual situation.

``It's going to be exciting,'' Bulldogs senior strong safety Corey Broomfield said. ``The Kentucky coaches will do a good job of protecting them and making the game simple for them, so we've got to make sure we're always in the right place, making the right reads.

``Hopefully, they give us a lot of chances to make plays on the ball.''

Both Kentucky quarterbacks were shielded from the media this week as they studied game film and the playbook just to master the basics of the Wildcats offense. The only certainty is that they will run no-huddle sets to avoid thinking too much while trying to end a three-game losing streak.

``It's really easier for them to operate in the no-huddle because a lot of times the hardest thing for a young guy is getting the play called right in the huddle,'' Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ``Anything you can eliminate, make it easier for them, that's what you try to do.''

Whitlow has a bit more experience after taking 65 snaps in relief of Smith, who was injured two plays into last week's loss to South Carolina. He led Kentucky to a 17-7 halftime lead before the Gamecocks adjusted to outgain the Wildcats 240-70 and intercept him twice during a 31-point second half.

Towles is considered more of a pocket passer but like Whitlow, he can and will run if necessary. Once headed for a redshirt season after losing a preseason competition to Whitlow, he's now set to alternate plays with him as the Wildcats search for ways to generate offense.

Bloomfield said the Bulldogs aren't fooled by the QB's youth, pointing out both received scholarships for a reason.

``You don't put anything past anybody,'' Bloomfield said. ``You can put the freshman label on people ... Nobody comes into the SEC without playing ball before. It's nothing new to him and it's nothing new to us. So I don't really care what year he is, he's an SEC football player.''

Nothing much has mattered to Mississippi State's defense. The Bulldog's defense is 13th in scoring (13.2 points per game), 18th in pass efficiency (99.6) and 40th overall (350 yards).

Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen is still looking for improvement in yardage allowed and increased sacks, but he's enjoying his team's knack for creating turnovers. Slay has four of the Bulldogs' nine interceptions and they've recovered six fumbles.

The offense is averaging nearly 400 yards a game with a fairly balanced attack. Junior quarterback Tyler Russell is averaging about 215 passing yards, just 30 more than Mississippi State is averaging with its ground game - which is anchored by junior LaDarius Perkins (395 yards, five TDs).

Kentucky defensive coordinator rick Minter knows the Bulldogs present a challenge, but he said they Wildcats are not going to sit back on their heels.

``On our side, we're trying to attack,'' Minter said. ``They got a veteran quarterback who's throwing the ball perhaps better than they did this time a year ago. Mix that with the good, solid, tough, hard-nosed approach of the coach and the way they like to play. They'll bring it.''

Playing their first SEC road game after a bye week, Mississippi State seeks its fourth straight victory in the series that Kentucky leads 21-18. The Bulldogs also are looking for their fourth consecutive win at Commonwealth Stadium.

Despite their recent success against the Wildcats, Mississippi State's average margin of victory the past four games is less than a touchdown. The Bulldogs will try to change that by taking advantage of Kentucky's young quarterbacks.

``We're going to come and try to attack from every angle,'' Mississippi State linebacker Cameron Lawrence said. ``That's what we do to every quarterback, but (with) them being freshmen even more so.''

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Late push for McGlinchey, Landry and Davenport would help Redskins at 13

Late push for McGlinchey, Landry and Davenport would help Redskins at 13

For months, draft conversation suggested that there wasn't an offensive tackle to pick in the Top 10. And after Bradley Chubb, there wasn't an edge defender worth a Top 10 pick either. 

All of a sudden, that conversation is changing. 

Late charges from Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey, Boston College defensive end Harold Landry and University of Texas San Antonio pass rusher Marcus Davenport are starting to influence mock drafts.

On Wednesday, NFL Network's Peter Schrager predicted the 49ers to take McGlinchey with the ninth overall pick. Charley Casserly, in a mock draft with NBC Sports Washington on Monday, predicted the Chicago Bears take Davenport with the eighth overall pick. Reports on Landry are all over the place, but some guess he could break the Top 10 as well.

The thing to remember about the NFL: It's a passing league. Positions tied to the quarterback are the most important, and that means protecting the QB and getting after the QB is in high demand. No position will ever get over-drafted like quarterback, but it's not a surprise that teams might reach for players at tackle or edge rusher.

What does this mean for the Redskins holding the No. 13 pick?

It means great news. 

Washington will already benefit from four QBs going in the Top 10. That will likely push down an elite talent to their draft spot.

If McGlinchey, Davenport or Landry also crack the Top 10? Even better.

The Redskins need help at just about every position group on the defensive side of the ball. It's well documented how the team struggled against the run in 2017, but the defense also lost Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller this offseason. 

There will be a number of weapons available for Washington at 13, and that could include players like Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James in addition to Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne. It might mean Tremaine Edmunds or Roquan Smith lasts to 13 too. 

For the Redskins, Fitzpatrick or James at 13 seems like a steal. Both players present elite potential at the evolving position of nickel cornerback. They can play some corner, some safety, and James might even be able to play some linebacker. 

Regardless of the eventual destination for James or Fitzpatrick, if more surprise players sneak into the Top 10 on Thursday night, the better Washington's options become. And that includes the possibility of trading down, Vea or Payne, Smith or Edmunds.

More elite options at 13 only helps the Redskins. 

Redskins fans should be rooting for Mike McGlinchey, Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport early Thursday night. The folks in Ashburn will be. 

- Mock Draft 9.0: Almost draft day
- Top Prospects: RB options for the Redskins
- Top Prospects: WR options for the Redskins
- Need To Know: Rich Tandler's Seven-Round Redskins Mock Draft
- Mega-Mock Predictions: DC Media choose No. 13 pick

Want more Redskins talk? Of course you do. Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Once undrafted, how Trey Edmunds found his way as a rookie in a crowded backfield

Once undrafted, how Trey Edmunds found his way as a rookie in a crowded backfield

NBC Sports Washington’s four-part digital series ‘E-Boyz’ -- chronicling the illustrious past, decorated present and bright future of the Edmunds family -- is NOW LIVE. Check out a new episode daily, leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Watch the third episode above and more here.

A position change. A school change. A season-ending injury. 

Those are the kinds of things that prevent an NFL career from ever starting. But none of those things stopped Trey Edmunds from reaching the league and contributing for the Saints as a rookie in 2017.

Trey, the oldest brother in a family that features 2018 prospects Tremaine and Terrell, came out of high school as a linebacker, but became a running back after enrolling at Virginia Tech. After three productive seasons with the Hokies, he transferred to finish up his career with Maryland, yet his senior season was cut short after fracturing his foot five games in to the schedule.

That injury was a big reason why the 2017 NFL Draft came and went without a phone call for Edmunds, so he signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in May. There, he played spot duty on special teams for much of his rookie campaign before his breakout moment in November:

Now, heading into his second pro year, Edmunds will reportedly have to fight for a roster spot in New Orleans again. But hey, adversity is something the 23-year-old is very familiar with, so don't bet against him.