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Patrick Towles feels like he “can play free” now that he is the starter

By LARRY VAUGHT

The first time Patrick Towles got into a game at Kentucky, he led a touchdown drive against Mississippi State in 2012 that had many expecting him to take over at quarterback. Instead, he got hurt, played sparingly the rest of the season and then was redshirted last year.

Now he’s won the starting job for the first time going into a season after coach Mark Stoops announced Monday that Towles, a sophomore, would start over Drew Barker and Reese Phillips.

“I didn’t think that at the time (about how long it would take to eventually start after the first scoring drive), but that’s the way the chips fell. That’s what I have to do. I just have to react to what happens. This Saturday will be the first time I’ve been on the field since Tennessee a year and a half ago, when I played in Knoxville. So it’s going to be a little different, but it’s going to be fun. I’m excited about it,” he said.

Actually, he’s so excited that he’s a week ahead of himself as UK does not play until Aug. 30 when it hosts UT-Martin.

“I’ve been Kentucky through and through for my entire life. I’ve heard no a lot. It was just the last time that I wanted to hear no. I was told things that I needed to get better at. I went out and I got better at them, and now I’m here (as the starter),” Towles said after Monday’s practice.

He was told to improve “everything fundamentally” about his game — and did.

“You have to be fundamentally almost perfect to play well in this league, consistently play well, especially against the people that we play against. My feet had to get better. My release had to change. I had to get my head on straight and really go after this thing. That’s what I did,” he said. “This is just the beginning. Right now I’m focused on Tennessee Martin and next Saturday.”

Practice the last two days has been fun for him.

“I felt like I can play free. Always having to … during the competition I would make a bad throw, and I’d constantly be like, ‘Gosh.’ Every throw had to be perfect, but now it’s a relief that I can go out and just let it all hang out and play,” he said. “I felt like I was a senior in high school and I was just able to play and just make plays. And that’s a good feeling.”

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Towles has been the same in practice the last two days as he was before he got the starting nod.

“I think he’s got a good understanding of: This is kind of just the start, you know? I think quarterback a lot of times is the only position where you get named the starter and people make a big deal out of it. If we name Ramsey Meyers the right guard, y’all aren’t really going to talk about him until he plays well,” Brown said Tuesday. “So I think he’s got a realistic expectation of: He got named the starter, now he’s got to play well.

“I think he carried himself like the starter. Not that the other guys didn’t, but I always thought he carried himself like the starter. So I haven’t seen a huge change. I think he’s a little bit relieved. A little bit of pressure has been taken off.”

Brown said Towles is talented enough to run any offense, not just the one UK uses.

“He’s got a strong arm. He’s big. He’s 6-4-plus. I think he’s 240 pounds-plus. He hit like 19.8 miles per hour yesterday in practice, so he runs well. So our offense, any offense, I think he’s capable of doing well,” Brown said.

Towles admitted it was hard to learn then offensive coordinator Randy Sanders’ offense as a true freshman — “or attempted to learn” as he said.

“With this, with the spread, I can — I try to, at least — I’d like to say I can run the ball a little bit when I have to. The spread just opens things up. It opens up more running lanes. It lets you put the ball in your playmakers’ hands. We’ve got great athletes on the outside and inside and it’s great to get them the ball in space.”

Towles doesn’t expect to be any more vocal as the starter. However, there could be a significant change with teammates.

“Whether other guys find me more credible because I’m the starter, that might be the case. My attitude has not changed since the day I stepped on campus,” he said. “Last year, it was kind of a different circumstance. I was on the sideline, and I wasn’t happy I was on the sideline, but I didn’t let my attitude try to affect anybody else’s. So my job being on the sideline was to get everybody else ready to play because I didn’t have to get ready. Me sulking wasn’t gonna help anything.”

“It’s a whole maturation process. It goes through ups and downs. Like I said, when I got here, I was an 18-year-old kid. Playing in front of 65,000 people was nuts. It was crazy. Now I’ve been here for going on my third year in school, and it definitely feel like everything is a lot quicker, sharper and it’s easier to make decisions.”

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3 comments

  1. RJ

    Just curious. If you play like you practice, as most coaches tell you, and you practice to be a starter, how does being the starter allow you to play differently than you practice??? Just saying ………. I think I understand what Patrick was trying to say but I sure hope he does not come to regret saying it out loud.

    1. Jim

      QB is the one position where the back up doesn’t get much time, unless there is an injury. A team may have 4 or 5 QBs, only one gets to play each season. It is the hardest spot on the team to win. In a competition, I can see where they can come out “tight”, worrying about being perfect. In a game, you have to go out an make things happen and try not to have any turnovers. If a bad play happens, you shake it off and make up for it on the next series.

      No matter how good the QB is, the receivers still have to make plays. They have to catch every ball that hit them in the hands, go after the ones that are a step in front or behind, and play defensive back when the ball is a little off target and is about to be intercepted.

      I watched the Cleveland Browns play, the other day, just to see Johnny Football. Their receivers played like a bunch of bums, imho. I have never seen so many NFL guys drop passes that hit them in the hands. Those were guys who get paid to catch the ball. Terry Bradshaw threw a terrible ball, but he had Swan and Stallworth. Couch had Yeast..

      The relative newcomer to the SEC, Missouri, is a team that impressed me last season. They had a couple of receivers that any NFL team would like to have. This season, they lost one to graduation and the other was kicked off the team. Not sure how good Missouri will be this season, but they won’t be the team they were last season, because those great receivers are gone.

      Now that UK has its starting QB, the question now is: Are there any receivers on this team that can step up and be “star” players?

    2. Love SEC F-Ball

      I understand exactly what Patrick is trying to say – He can just relax and play.
      Jim makes some good points -Hope you are right about Mizzou.

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