Towles, team benefit from QB competition

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.”

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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.

Kentucky picks up first commit of ’17 class in rising Florida QB

Kentucky picked up the first commitment of their ’17 class today in quickly-rising Jacksonville, Florida quarterback, Mac Jones.

Jones is a slender 6-foot-2, 180-pound three-star prospect, but you can expect that stock to rise in the near future as Jones continues to showcase his accuracy and quick decision-making at camps & all-star events.

At this point East Carolina is the only other major program to offer Jones, but I expect him to start picking up some big-time offers as the year goes on.  That’s due in large-part to the fact that the Florida product recently turned heads at IMG’s 7-on-7 passing tourney in Florida, where he excelled against some of the nation’s best high school players.

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Jones is still really raw for his age, but has a very high ceiling

Jones’ commitment might not immediately jump off the page at you since it lacks that sexy four-star rating that so many fans covet, but sleeping on this kid would be a mistake.  This Kentucky staff has shown time and time again that they’re some of the best in the country when it comes to finding and evaluating talent early in the recruiting process.

Additionally, Jones is an important commitment for the Cats not only because of the position he plays (UK didn’t take a single QB in last year’s haul), but also because of the tendency of other skill players wanting to follow their favorite signal-caller to his school of choice.  That was evident less than a week after Jones’ commitment when five-star Florida wide receiver Jermaine Eskridge picked Kentucky over a virtual who’s-who of college powers.

Stoops and Co. continue to be one step ahead of many traditional powers in recognizing talent, and this commitment is only the latest example of that.  When it comes to recruiting, this coaching staff isn’t going to be out-worked, that’s for sure.

Here are the highlights from Jones’ sophomore season.  He’s still really raw, but I really like his accuracy and anticipation against what is elite high school competition.

Video: JD Harmon has hops

Cornerback JD Harmon might best be remembered for being (unfairly) singled out by Stoops last season as the reason for the special teams’ woes, but now he has something to compete with that memory–this video:

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I knew Harmon was athletic, but had no idea he could throw down like that. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior had 29 tackles last season, where he was a special teams’ demon–racking up numerous big hits, and several game-changing plays. He was listed as an athlete coming out of HS, and Stoops and Co. are making good use of that label–putting him all over the field on defense & special teams, in positions where he can use his athletic ability to make plays.

Update: Latest Commonwealth Pics

Here are a few of the latest field-install pictures from Commonwealth:

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It’s finally starting to look like an SEC football stadium. The blue endzones are going to give the field some long-awaited character, and the new press box, seat backs, lights, & recruiting room, are going to give the stadium a much more modern, sophisticated feel–which I have no complaints.

As we creep closer to kickoff against Louisiana-Lafayette, I’m finding this to be one of the most-anticipated Kentucky season openers I’ve ever remembered.

The reasons for that are mainly two-prong: 1) the excitement that has built in the fanbase in realizing this team returns such a significant core of its playmakers from a year ago (Towles, Boom, Stamps, Forrest, etc), and 2) the stadium/field are going to be much-improved, with the feel of an NFL or modern college football stadium. Fans are going to turn out in droves to see what all the fuss has been about with the Commonwealth renovations, and my bet is that they won’t come away disappointed.

Checkerboard endzone being installed

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There’s also progress being made (well pictures of construction crews anyway) on the $45M practice facility.

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We can’t forget about the Cats in the NFL–Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun has the latest on Za’Darius Smith, saying that ‘Z’ has been making an early impression on Ravens’ coach, John Harbaugh.

Also, even though we haven’t heard as much out of him, Darrian Miller is still hard at work for the Cleveland Browns:CGLvFLmXEAAjzbr

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We Grindin everyday!! #SteelCity #steelernation #BeatGreat™ 🐝🐝swarm 💯👌🏾🏈💪🏾

A photo posted by Bud Dupree™ (@bud_dupree) on