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Patrick Towles knows he must keep improving despite spring game performance

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON —Patrick Towles doesn’t know if he did enough to lay claim to the starting quarterback job, but he was pleased with the way he played in Saturday’s Blue-White Game that ended Kentucky’s spring practice.

“All I can do is worry about what I am doing and continuing to try and get better,” said Towles. “I did some good things, some things not so good. But compared to last year it was way, way better.”

Towles earned the right to lead UK’s first-team offense on the first drive — a sign that he was ahead in the three-way battle with freshmen Drew Barker and Reese Phillips. Towles was a combined 11-for-15 for 126 yards with one interception while playing with both the first and second teams.

Barker was 7-for-19 for 74 yards and one score and Phillips 10-for-17 for 74 yards and two scores.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said he would meet with offensive coordinator Neal Brown in the next week to analyze everything all three quarterbacks did this spring to evaluate if they are ready to name a starter.

“You saw Patrick do some good things. You saw the other two do some good things,” Stoops said. “Patrick, along with the other two, was shaky at times. But Patrick is improved. You see the improvement and I am proud of that. I think we are better around him. I think when everybody is healthy (at all positions), you will see all the quarterbacks look better.”

Stoops said he “really liked the other two” quarterbacks along with Towles and both are “great quarterbacks and certainly had great days this spring.”

However, Towles certainly did two things to impress Stoops and Brown — he led a touchdown drive on his first series and then took UK into the end zone on a drive in the final minute of the first half.

“I told you Patrick had made improvement. You saw it on that drive,” Stoops said. “He is doing good things and looks comfortable. It’s not easy to come in and play. It’s a different game going from high school to college. That’s why I am very proud of the way Reese and Drew played in the spring.”

Towles admitted he was frustrated at times last year when he was redshirting after failing to beat out Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow, something he also could not do in 2012 when he played sparingly.

“I won’t lie. It was hard at times. But I just worked to get better,” Towles said.

Brown said Barker had played better in scrimmages than he did in his first Blue-White Game and that Phillips was maybe not quite as consistent as normal, either.

“Reese is consistent. I thought he was a little nervous early, too. He makes a lot of good decisions. He does not make big negative plays. He does not do things that hurt you,” Brown said. “But he’s played better than he did today. They all have.”

The Blue team had the first unit and won 38-14. Stoops was pleased with the overall play that included 328 yards rushing led by JoJo Kemp’s 90 yards and two scores on 11 carries and Mikel Horton’s 70 yards and one score on 13 carries with the White team.

Receiver Demarco Robinson had eight catches for 115 yards and versatile Ryan Timmons five catches for 47 yards and one run for eight yards. Braylon Heard, a transfer from Nebraska making his UK debut, had seven carries for 55 yards.

On defense, backup linebacker Daron Blaylock had a team-high nine stops and ZaDarius Smith had an interception and sack. Christian Coleman had two tackles for loss and one sack.

“I thought both sides did some good things,” Stoops said. “We kept it pretty vanilla on defense. We were a little bit more efficient throwing and catching the ball. We are not a finished product, but we are improved. We are getting better, but we have a long way to go. I was happy with the team’s energy. It’s been solid all spring. We went out today and played good, solid, clean football.”

Brown admitted the offense was “more talented” than last year and that by next spring UK should have a more competitive spring game with a better second-team offense.

“I don’t know if we had a strength (on offense) or not last year. We were not very good last year,” Brown said of the 2-10 season. “We are a little better. We have to have something to hang our hat on. Right now we are pretty good at running the ball and play action.”

Stoops said he feels “much better” about the team than he did a year ago.

“I really tried not to throw everybody under the bus, including myself, but we just weren’t very good,” Stoops said. “We are better. Not where need to be, but we are better.”

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15 comments

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  1. Mike

    Very happy to see that Patrick had a good spring game, and he showed his poise and maturity over a year ago. I hope he can stay in the lead but am sure things will work out for the best. It is also nice to hear that Stoops happy with performance vs. same time last year. Proud of you Patrick and keep it going!

  2. RJ

    I didn’t see a lot of separation between Towles and Philips. But then I’m not the coach either. I thought Towles had a strong performance but he did have the int. I thought Philips had a better touch on the ball.

    1. Jm

      I disagree. I thought Towles was best, and the freshman was second. Don’t think Phillips has a strong enough arm. I think the QB job could go to either Towles or the freshman at the start of the season. Phillips connected on the short passes and when he tried to throw the long ones, he almost had one taken to the house.

  3. Larry PupI thought the first team defanse played pretty well too.

    Larry I thought you should have mentioned Clemons. He had a pretty impressive day running the football too. All in all a pretty good spring game. Of the three QB’s I thought Phillips was the most steady, all said and done, with 2 TD tosses. Towles looked much improved and Barker threw a great TD strike to Robinson late. He is going to be a good one and is UK’s future for sure. I thought the defense looked better, and the Oline too. UK looks much improved on both sides of the ball, and the RB’s will be game breakers.

    1. Larry Pup

      Proof read LarryPup. Sorry sports fans for the typo in my handle.

    2. larryvaught

      I have clemons info in story to come

  4. Georgia Blue

    From the highlites , it’s seem to me that our Defense didn’t want to hit the ball carrier. Do you think the Defense didn’t go as hard because of the injuries this spring on offense. They didn’t want to get anybody hurt, because I hope so .

    1. Larry Pup

      The defense would have had a lot of sacks (1st team defense especially) if live on the qb’s today. I thought the RB’s made people miss and ran hard. Perhaps they, the D, both the blue team, and the white team, were a little tentative for the reason you state, but I think the backs are going to produce this year big time. Horton was bottled up early. The hitting in a spring game is not going to be nearly as intense as it will be against a real opponent. I am concerned about the secondary because UK ran the ball so much today, and did not test the DB’s in airing it out like I think will happen when UK faces a real opponent. I may be wrong, and we will find out soon enough. Overall, I was impressed with the improvement I saw across the entire team.

    2. Edward

      Georgia, if you were not there, then you didn’t hear the pops. The RB’s and the D has some real SEC type collisions.

  5. Rick

    I could not help but notice how fast Towles was on his drop backs and getting the ball out of his hands. I liked the way he dropped back fast then stepped up into the pocket to throw with a fast release. I only wish he would have thrown the ball away more when there was no one open. I’m in no way a QB coach but as far as I could see he’s much improved and in my mind it’s his job to loose.

    1. RJ

      He keeps throwing int’s and he’ll lose it. Brown is right; Philips does not beat himself..

      1. Josh

        ^I don’t know what game you watched yesterday but Phillips almost had 5 int’s. All 3 struggle against the one’s but Barker and Towles were the only to led TD drives against them

        1. Larry Pup

          Almost don’t count. Towles had one picked. Phillips threw two TD’s too and looked just as good as Towles to me and comfortable and steady. But it don’t matter. They could all improve, and I will be happy with either one.

  6. MILLCAT

    I agree with JM, Towles was the better QB and looked like the direction to go have Phillips back him up and redshirt Barker this should be best for all now and the future go Blue

  7. Ira

    I’d say most improved is Towles. Most consistent is Phillips. You’ll see a RS on Barker this fall, and now everyone can see why Whitlow was asked to change to WR.

    Between Towles and Phillips, I think the QB competition may go into early fall camp and it will be decided on who wants it the most. Right now, Towles has the edge, but if the season started today I’d be comfortable enough with Phillips to be the starter as well as Towles.

    Do they both have things to work on sure. But after watching them, and no disrespect to Whitlow who gave his best to our program last year, I’d pick these 2 over him. I wouldn’t have said that about Towles last year, that’s how far he has improved his ability etc.

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