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Neal Brown says Drew Barker has to learn you don’t “have to make a big play every time”

Drew Barker sets to throw during Saturday's Blue-White game. (Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved)

Drew Barker sets to throw during Saturday’s Blue-White game. (Victoria Graff photo/all rights reserved)


LEXINGTON — When Kentucky ended its spring practice, offensive coordinator Neal Brown was more than pleased with how quarterback Drew Barker performed.

The talented quarterback from Conner High School in northern Kentucky graduated in December so he could enroll at UK in January to go through sprng practice with quarterbacks Patrick Towles, Reese Phillips and Maxwell Smith.

“I think it’s still a work in progress. I think the things that he does right now that are hurting him is he’s got to understand — as a young guy this is the hardest thing to learn — he’s got to understand that we can punt on offense. They allow us to punt. Now, I would rather not, but they allow us to punt,” said Brown. “So if it’s not there, eat the ball, take a sack, find your running back. He had a couple plays today where he really should’ve gotten the ball down to his running back, so those things, just having patience, not thinking you have to make a big play every time.”

Brown said he likes the competitive spirit that Barker has, but notes that he has “got to harness it” in certain situations.

The offensive coordinator says Barker, and all the quarterbacks, has a “good understanding” of what they need to do during the summer months on their own.

“Now they’ve gotta take it on their own — now the good thing is with the new rules, we’re able to do some things without the ball, so in the summer, we’ll be able to do some fundamental things with them. They know what we’re looking for. They’ve got a ton of film from the spring that they can watch and I fully expect when we get back together the first week of practice in August, we’ll be a lot better. They’ll be a lot better,” he said.

Brown says Barker can use the dramatic improvement Towles made in the last year as a pattern for what he needs to do.

“His (Towles’) decision making is better. This time last year, he felt like he had to make huge plays all the time. Similar to things I was saying about Drew. He understands now, ‘OK, hey, if it’s not there, check the ball down. It’s OK to run. Scramble.’ He’s really nice athlete,” Brown said. “So he’s matured. He’s not making the big, negative plays. A year ago last year, in the spring game he made a couple big, negative plays, same thing when we got into fall camp. He’s doing less of that now.”

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  1. Highlands fan

    Did the current coaching staff ever watch entire game films of the Highlands Bluebirds offense? I have to say they obviously never took the time to do this. Towles ran a potent offense in high school. To say he felt like he had to make huge plays all the time last year, probably is a very accurate statement. I imagine the young man along with the rest of Fort Thomas were scratching their heads wondering why he was behind Whitlow and Smith last season and he forced the issue as he was being redshirted.

    I’d say the coaching staff has matured on seeing talent, not Towles.

    1. Love SEC F-Ball

      You are too critical of the coaching staff when you state “they obviously never took time to watch Highlands film”. Brown knows what he is doing.
      Highlands is a fantastic well respected program but it is not the SEC.
      He did Towles a favor by redshirting him and Barker needs a redshirt this year.
      Forget wins currently – build the program for the long term.
      Towles is in much better position to lead us now. He has always been talented but he is stronger, smarter, more mature and we should see that on the field this fall.
      I have always felt that Towles has huge potential.

    2. larryvaught

      Highlands fan, I think the staff saw potential in Towles or they would not have redshirted him to protect a year of eligibility. He just had changes to make, and he did

  2. Ira

    Highlands fan,
    I’m glad you support your HS program, but Towles himself has come out listing his own difficulties at QB. They were many. Look at Towles from last year to this spring game and you can see his obvious improvement. Now it’s up to him over the summer to keep working hard to win the starting job.

  3. Terry Blue

    I’ve seen other HIghlands fans be delusional about Towles. I would say about 99% of the time coaching staffs are going to play the best players at each position. Do you think they want to lose? Patrick has been very clear in that he didn’t deserve to start last year. He acknowledged his flaws and has worked hard to correct and improve them

    1. larryvaught

      Terry Blue, you have nailed it. Never once have I heard Patrick complain

    2. Northern KY football

      Not sure what is meant by other Highlands fans being delusional. It will be interesting to see how delusional anyone is, should Barker start this season.

  4. Larry Pup

    If Towles had been good enough last year he would have played instead of donning a RS IMO. If he is the man this year he will start, it’s that simple. Whitlow, say what you will, was thrown into the fire early in his career, and earned his playing time while at UK based on practice and game time evaluations. Towles is now going against two pretty good QB’s in their on right. Those young men deserve fair consideration also, do they not? As for Highlands, it is a good HS program, but it ain’t big time college football. I like Towles, and can see improvement in his game, but I’m not so sure he is the best QB for UK right now. He may very well be, time will tell.

  5. Glenn Fohr

    I think he is the very qb we need right now. Strong arm, mobile, hungry, and has been humbled by his experiences. He is now very coachable and has seen what hard work can do.

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