By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — Now that Kentucky has named Patrick Towles the starting quarterback for the season-opening game Aug. 30 against UT-Martin, the next quarterback question is who will be the backup.
True freshman Drew Barker and redshirt freshman Reese Phillips drew praise from both coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown Monday for the way they competed with Towles.
Stoops laughted and said to “give me one day” when asked who the backup quarterback would be.
“We’re really not in a position. I really felt like all three guys were very close all along, with Max (Smith) being the fourth because of his shoulder. And that set him back. He missed all spring, he missed a good portion of this camp. But Max really has improved. So he (Towles) won it over Drew and Reese, and I’m not prepared to name a backup yet. I have confidence in both of those guys,” said Stoops.
“Obviously the other guys were disappointed, which it’s kind of a bittersweet day when you have to tell guys that what they’ve worked for is not going to happen,” Brown said. “Those other guys have got to be ready to go. I think I looked at the — you guys can back this up, but I think only two starting quarterbacks in the SEC started every game last year. So, the backup, whoever it’s going to be, has got to be ready to play.”
Brown later said on Kentucky Sports Radio that he would like to redshirt Barker — and every other freshman — and explained how that most freshmen quarterbacks that make a significant impact are redshirt freshmen.
Stoops wanted not part of the redshirt talk about Barker, who picked UK over South Carolina and helped put together UK’s strong 2014 recruiting class.
“I really don’t want to even discuss that or even open that door right now. I want Drew to keep working and keep on battling and we’ll see where that goes,” Stoops said.
Stoops said he liked how the other quarterbacks responded when they learned Towles would be the starter.
“They’re going to keep on working and I know they will. I have a lot of confidence in those guys,” the UK coach said.
He also liked how Towles handled being No. 1 for the first time at practice.
“It wasn’t perfect. But that’s the whole picture, too. That’s all of us. That’s the whole team. We need to play better around him. It’s not just one guy. We need to play well as an offense and as a defense. He did some good things and some bad things, but he’s been good in the leadership area as well,” Stoops said.
“All those guys — you know how it is — when you’re not named the starter, they’re each trying to find their place when it comes to the leadership of the offense and the leadership of the team. I hope now that he has the keys that he can drive the bus and be the leader that we need him to be.”
Stoops said how quarterbacks deal with adversity is always monitored.
“I think that’s a big part of it, just seeing how they operate. As you know, you see how I operate in practice. I always like to stand behind the secondary. It’s where I’ve been my whole life, watching the game. But there are times when I get in there right behind the offense and see that quarterbacks’ point of view,” Stoops said.
“Believe me, you have a lot more respect for them when you start seeing back there and seeing all the different things that are going on and all the moving parts. All the confusion defenses can throw at you. I think that’s fair to say that we always watch how quarterbacks respond to adversity.”