It’s safe to say that many Kentucky fans were confused when junior QB Patrick Towles wasn’t named the starter after a successful 2014 season, but earlier this week those concerns were alleviated when the gun slinging Kentucky-native was named the Cats first-stringer.
“It was no big deal to him,” Stoops said of Towles’ reaction to the competition. “He was used to it. He thanked me for believing in him and giving him the opportunity [and] was ready to get back to work.”
Towles started every game for UK last season and was largely effective in doing so. The then-sophomore showed above average athleticism for someone his size and flashed a cannon of an arm, reminding many of Ben Roethlisberger, who is also listed at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. Towles finished sixth in the league in passing yards per game (226.5) and accounted for 20 total touchdowns, which ranked 10th in the conference. Those stats could lead the average Kentucky fan to believe the quarterback position was all but sewn up, but as Mark Stoops explained, nothing is given on this year’s squad.
“We don’t want any player at any position to be given anything. We want them to earn it and earn the right to start.”
Besides wanting to create a competitive environment, Stoops explained there were “areas we felt like [Towles] needed to improve from last year,” as part of the reason for the prolonged competition.
“He was very good at times. But inconsistent. And inaccurate at times,” Stoops explained. “He’s improved on his accuracy in intermediate throws. You know, he has a big, strong arm and makes some really big throws, at times. But he’s also been inaccurate every now and then.”
Coaches have made it apparent that accuracy and decision making have been areas where Towles needed the most improvement, and it appears the young QB has made good use of his offseason and this competition, improving significantly in both areas.
It’s because of this improvement that so many Kentucky fans are beaming with excitement heading into a much-anticipated 2015 season. With the game of football being more quarterback-oriented than ever, having a good signal caller is critical to a team’s success and can be the deciding factor with two evenly matched teams.
At the end of the day, if Kentucky is able to take that ‘next step’ up the SEC ladder, Drew Barker — and a competition that seemed never-ending — could be the ones to thank.