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Kentucky Football Position Breakdown: Quarterback
With just over a month still left until Kentucky’s first game against UT Martin, Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown still have not chosen who their starting quarterback will be for the 2014 season. Kentucky has a lot of depth and talent at the QB position, but the pressure on the coaches is way too high for them to win more than two games to take the position decision lightly.
Last year Kentucky averaged 193.3 yards threw the air per game, which was tied for 101st in college football. Those type of numbers wont cut it if the Cats want to have a better record than last year’s 2-10.
Right now the QB race is between Drew Barker, Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips. Maxwell Smith is another option, but he doesn’t seem healthy enough to be up for the starter spot at this time. Each QB brings something different to the table, let’s take a look at each one.
Barker was a very highly recruited player from Conner High School in Hebron, KY.. He shocked a lot of people when he chose UK over South Carolina. He threw for 2,697 yards and 33 touchdowns his senior season. He also ran for 848 yards and nine touchdowns, finishing his high school career with over 3,800 yards and 49 touchdowns on the ground.
He has SEC QB size and is very agile. His biggest downfall is that he hasn’t been in Neal Brown’s system very long, although the upside for Barker might be better than Phillips and Towles.
Barker did a great job recruiting other top players to the 2014 class and it would be an even greater recruiting tool for coach Stoops to have a freshman start, especially for local talent. Going through camp and picking up the playbook will be essential for Barker if he wants to see playing time early in the season.
Phillips sat out last year, but has apparently been the most consistent of the QB’s in the Spring. He played high school ball at Signal Mountain High in Tennessee, throwing for 2,274 yards and 15 touchdowns his senior season.
Stoops said of him in mid-July via TimesFreePress.com:
“I’ve been very pleased with Reese, He was a guy throughout spring that may have been the most consistent. He was a guy that just did a nice job of managing the offense and staying away from negative plays.
“I’m very impressed with Reese. He’s got a good chance to win the battle. We’ll see where it goes, but he’s right in the thick of things.”
He also has good size and is the most accurate passer the Wildcats have. He doesn’t seem as comfortable running the ball and scrambling like Barker, but he did have a full year to learn the system and he seems to control the offense well according to the coaches.
Towles is the only one of the QB’s in the race who has been in an actual college football game. The former Ft. Thomas Highlands star played in five games his freshman year, completing 19 of 40 passes for 233 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
He is the perfect size for a SEC quarterback and has a really strong arm. He has spent the off-season working on his mechanics and could easily be the starter on August 30th.
Neal Brown told the Courier-Journal earlier this month of Towels:
“Mentally, he’s in a much better place and fundamentally he’s in a much better place, which led to playing at a much higher level in spring. If you’re just talking about pure quarterback traits, he’s got ideal size (6-5, 238). He’s a better athlete than most people realize – he can run and showed that a couple times in the spring game. He runs the ball better than what you’d think looking at him. He’s got a huge arm, very strong arm, can make any throw you want him to. And he’s a smart kid. Those are all good traits.”
Smith has been recovering from a shoulder surgery during the off-season and was out all of Spring, but he has the experience that the three QB’s in the starters race do not. He led Kentucky in passing last season with 1,276 yards and nine touchdowns. He also only threw one interceptions, although he was sacked 18 times.
He has played in 20 games in past three se throwing for a total of 3,070 yards, 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions. If he can get healthy he could be in the mix, but it seems he might sit out this season.
Kentucky has a lot of young talent this upcoming season and are not expected to win too many games. It would be smart for Brown and Stoops to just decide on one QB to be the starter and not keep changing things around each game.
If I had my pick I would go with Barker. He has a lot going for him and will only improve as the season goes along. The first two games for UK are UT-Martin and Ohio, which will give whichever QB they decide on two games to get comfortable before Florida.
What are your thoughts? Who do you think should be the starting QB for the Kentucky Wildcats? Comment below and let us know.
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