By LARRY VAUGHT
Since he didn’t always see eye-to-eye with every offensive coordinator he had, former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen had no trouble sensing there was a disconnect between freshman quarterback Patrick Towles and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders and even coach Joker Phillips this season.
“I don’t think they got along really well. The coaching change can only be good for him,” said Lorenzen, who helped coach Towles at Highlands.
Towles, Kentucky’s 2011 Mr. Football, came to UK expecting to contend for the starting job. Instead, he quickly found himself taking snaps with the scout team and eventually was placed fourth on the depth chart by sophomore Maxwell Smith, senior Morgan Newton and fellow freshman Jalen Whitlow. Only when Smith injured his ankle in the fifth game and Newton was ineffective due in part to last season’s shoulder injury did Kentucky offer to let Towles play. He gladly gave up his redshirt year, but got hurt his first game after directing an 80-yard scoring drive on his first series.
He finished the season completing 19 of 40 passes in five games for 233 yards and one score with one interception. Whitlow played in 10 games and was 87 for 161 passing for 801 yards and three scores with two interceptions and ran for 206 yards and three scores. In three games, Smith threw for 975 yards and eight scores by completing 103 of 150 throws with four interceptions.
Lorenzen often disagreed with offensive coordinator Brent Pease during his time at UK under coach Hal Mumme. Then two even exchanged Twitter taunts before this year’s Florida-Kentucky game (Pease is Florida’s offensive coordinator).
“I don’t know what happened with Patrick and Sanders. Based on what I could see on the sidelines and the way they interacted — or didn’t interact — it was obvious something was wrong,” Lorenzen said. “It was like a bad couple relationship and now they are each going their own way.”
Lorenzen laughed he had one coordinator (Pease) meet him before he got off the field to point out his mistakes. However, he said he had not seen an offensive coordinator walk away from quarterbacks the way Sanders did at times when he would go to one 30-yard line and leave Towles and other quarterbacks at the other 30 after Towles came out of a game.
“Brent and I would yell and scream and then it was done. I never had a coordinator walk away from me,” Lorenzen said. “We never let it carry over to the next series. That’s not fair to the team and why I’ve never seen coaches at one 30 and the quarterbacks at the other 30.”
Last week Sanders said there was “no question who the best one is” when asked about the quarterback and said he would have a “hard time believing” Smith would not be the starting quarterback next year unless the new head coach has a different offensive philosophy than Sanders and Phillips.
While Sanders’ comment upset some, it did not bother Lorenzen.
“I was hoping Max would play this whole year and then have a competition with Patrick next year,” Lorenzen said. “Even if he had to sit behind Max a year or two, he could learn and come in after he leaves. That’s the way it works at most SEC schools. Max was playing really well before he was hurt. Now it will be a three-person race next year for anybody that wants the job. It’s just who steps up the fastest and how Max comes back from that ankle injury. As much of a Patrick fan as I am, I think Max deserves his fair chance next year based on what he was doing this year.”
If Smith had stayed healthy, Towles would still have four years of eligibility instead of three. Lorenzen thinks he may “regret” not redshirting even though Towles, who missed the second of Saturday’s loss to Tennessee when he was “dinged up” after a sideline hit, made it clear he wanted to play.
“I thought it would be best for him to redshirt, and told him that adamantly,” Lorenzen said. “He got in a half a game, then got hurt. He probably does regret playing to some extent. But he did get some good experience and there is nothing better than game reps. He did learn, but I still wish he had a full four years left.”
Can he be a high level SEC quarterback?
“I know he can. We have talked about it. I just told him to put his head down and go,” Lorenzen said. “Heal that ankle and make sure you get 100 percent. Take time off to do that.
“But nobody will go into spring practice with a new coach with the job. Now it is a fight with Jalen also definitely in the mix. But I have full confidence in Patrick that he can be a great SEC quarterback. Nothing that happened this year changed my mind about that,” Lorenzen said.