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By LARRY VAUGHT
During his playing career at Kentucky, quarterback Jared Lorenzen readily admits he was not always the most mature player despite his success on the field.
But when he looks at Conner quarterback Drew Barker, who has signed with UK and will enroll in January, he sees a totally different type of player.
“I am 32 years old and I get upset talking to Barker because he’s more of a man than I am now,” said Lorenzen. “He is just there, just more mature than I ever was or am.
“He was the guy saying I am keeping the recruiting class together and I’ll be the face of the recruiting class. He’s the one contacting everybody. Nobody has ever done anything like that at UK, and he’s constantly said what he’s doing and reaching out to players. He is just head and shoulders above anyone I’ve ever spoken to.
“I’m hoping to talk to him about the expectations he’ll face at Kentucky. It’s not the X’s and O’s, but it is about how to carry yourself. I just want to have that conversation with him.”
Lorezen said it is obvious that “people just gravitate to him and want to be around him” and that could be invaluable at UK.
“I’ve only known him a couple of years. This past year we talked mostly through Twitter or I would see him at a UK game. He came to a Highlands game a time or two and I saw him then,” Lorenzen said. “He’s just one of those guys that is a lot of fun to be around and could do some special things at UK because of that.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
If Patrick Towles is not happy at Kentucky, he’s certainly kept it to himself — something that is normally not easy for a quarterback who thought he would be playing to do.
Towles was Kentucky’s Mr. Football in 2011 when he led Highlands to another state championship. He was the bellcow in then UK coach Joker Phillips’ final recruiting class and was viewed as the savior of UK football. Instead, he got to play sparingly in 2012 only because other quarterbacks were hurt — and then got injured himself.
This season he was redshirted as he tried to cope and learn new offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s pass-friendly offense.
But with starter Jalen Whitlow returning, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips ahead of Towles on the season-ending depth chart, the possible return of part-time starter Max Smith and the arrival of Conner quarterback Drew Barker at UK in January, many have speculated that Towles will transfer.
Don’t count on it based on two messages he posted on Twitter after UK’s season ending loss to Tennessee.
“Big thanks to the seniors for giving all they had day in and day out and for helping in this programs transformation!!! Always #family #BBN,” Towles posted. Then he added, “Can’t wait for Spring Ball in Lexington! All improvement until then!”
Walk-on linebacker Tre Dunn of Mercer County has seen no signs of unhappiness from Towles, who was not available to the media after the season started.
“Me and Towles are really good friends. I always heard about him and (freshman walk-on receiver) Ozzie (Sheehan) both at Highlands. We have been pretty good pals. I am close to all the K-Y (Kentucky) kids. We have to stick together,” Dunn said. “I think Patrick is an extremely hard working individual and adversity is nothing new to him. He has handled everything well. He will continue to work hard because that is what he does best.”
Towles never pouted on the sideline during a game. He was usually one of the first to cheer for teammates. When Jalen Whitlow was injured at Georgia, Towles put on his helmet and was ready to play if needed even though it would have burned his redshirt year.
“He is definitely someone regardless of what his position is on the team, he knows everyone has a role,” Dunn said. “He is someone to bring guys up with him and encourage everybody to keep optimistic on the sideline. He is awesome. That is a trait everyone respects because he’s awesome like that.
“He loves it here from what I can tell. I don’t know all the details, but Patrick is an awesome teammate and I love having him around. He’s great to be with.”
Former UK quarterback Jared Lorenzen is a Towles fan. He coached Towles at Highlands, where he also played, and understands the rigors of playing quarterback in the SEC. He’s never asked Towles about his future plans, but knows he’s heard no transfer talk from those closest to him.
“He always kind of grew up wanting to play for UK. He finally got his wish and he’s on full scholarship,” Lorenzen said. “He got to play (last year), throw touchdowns. I have not heard anything about transferring. He could light it up in the spring (practice). Not anyone is just going to be given the job. Someone has to take it. Maybe he just needs another year for that to be him.”
Some have speculated maybe Towles would stay at UK and change positions. Lorenzen says no way to that.
“He is a quarterback. It’s hard if you have never played another position to switch and do it. It just takes certain mentality to play quarterback,” Lorenzen said.
But what about Danville’s Chase Harp? He was recruited by UK coach Hal Mumme at quarterback, didn’t win the job and eventually became a productive, starting tight end.
“What I love about Chase is that he was a dirty, mean player, and I mean that as a compliment,” Lorenzen said. “I wish I had had more of that in me. Chase loved the weight room. He was going to fight you. That was him. Moving him was fine.
“But at Highlands, if you play quarterback, you don’t play any other position. He did not play much defense in Pee Wee football. It’s just too hard at 21 years old to make a change like that.”
But could he cope with not playing another year if Whitlow, Phillips or Barker wins the No. 1 job over him?
“That’s person by person. He’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever been around,” Lorenzen said. “He wants to win and be the quarterback. All quarterbacks do. But a lot of backup quarterbacks realize they are getting school paid for, he’s there with his friends on a team and Pat could be part of teams that turn UK football around. There’s a lot to be said for that. On the opposite side, he could say I’ve given this long enough and I want to go where I can play. Everybody’s different.”
Lorenzen said the “mental maturity” is different for every player and for some, it takes longer.
“Everybody grows up at a different time mentally,” Lorenzen said. “Physically, the kid is a beast. But it’s really different playing quarterback in the SEC compared to the Big Ten, ACC or American whatever. This is where the cream is.”
His purpose is simple — put on an informative, entertaining football camp for youth ages 10-17 that costs the participants nothing.
“When I was growing up in Florida, I could not afford to go to camps. We couldn’t do it. I wanted to attend, but couldn’t because of money,” said Champ Kelly, a former University of Kentucky player and current assistant director of pro personnel for the Denver Broncos. “I said if I was ever in position to have a camp like that for kids, I would want to give them the most coverage and most instruction possible for no cost.”
He’ll do that again June 21-22 at Henry Clay High School from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day.
“It’s going to again be a time for the kids to meet the star, but it is about more than that,” Kelly said. “It’s not about the guys coming back to help me. It’s about the campers. We come in and don’t make a big stink out of who is there to help and you are going to get awesome coaching.
“The kids are going to learn football. We are going to prepare them for success on and off the field. For younger campers, we will stress the basics while getting into more extensive training with older campers. We will have a variety of guest speakers delivering messages on life skills and the importance of making good decisions.
“I like a mixture of ages. Older kids are able to be leaders by example. I want younger kids there at ages 10 or 11 from now until they graduate and they know what that CHAMP Camp on the front of the T-shirt represents.”
Kelly had the camp at Bryan Station last year, but wanted to reach out to “a few different kids” by moving the camp to Henry Clay.
“Our plan originaly was to try every couple of years to move to a different area to reach more kids. We hope the kids in the Bryan Station area want to come to camp regardless of where we are.”
But he would like to have more than just Lexington campers. North Hardin High School has told Kelly it hopes to bring up to 44 players and at least 30. Kelly is hoping other high schools will do the same.
He’ll have a variety of former UK players like Derek Abney, Dougie Allen, Leonard Burress, Chris Demaree and more at camp again. Last year he had both Randall Cobb and John Conner, current NFL players, speak to the campers.
“It’s almost like a who’s who of Kentucky football,” Kelly said. “But these guys love to get together and help. They like to come back to Kentucky where we all met and give back for a great cause. It’s not like pulling teeth to get them back. They want to help. I just think it is awesome that a guy like Derek Abney, who lives in South Carolina and is very selective about camps he’s involved with, will come spend time and talk to kids and help the receivers out.”
He’s reached out to former UK quarterbacks Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen about helping this year as well as former UK linebacker Jeff Snedegar. Cobb plans to be back if his schedule permits. Current NFL offensive lineman Garry Williams also plans to return. “He is awesome. He stays the entire day to help,” Kelly said.
He said current Bronco tight end Jacob Tamme also hopes to be at this year’s camp if his schedule allows.
“I try to not put names out there because I want kids to come for the idea of what the camp is about opposed to just the people that will be there,” Kelly said. “But I always want as many of the Kentucky guys there as possible not because of their names, but because they are great with the kids and teach them lessons about life and football.”
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.
By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s got a long list of celebrities again participating, but Jacob Tamme knows why the third annual Swings For Soldiers Classic July 16 in Lexington again looks like it is going to be a successful fundraiser for Homes for Our Troops.
“We have people who care about what we are doing,” said Tamme, the former Boyle County and University of Kentucky standout who now plays for the Denver Broncos. “There are so many things for people to be involved with that are good causes, but here you see the impact you can have on a family.”
Homes for Our Troops has a simple mission: To build specially adapted homes for wounded veterans as the needs grows because more servicemen and women are coming home without the mobility needed to operate in their previous home.
The golf scramble July 16 at Keene Run Golf Club will again have 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. rounds, the same format as last year after the first event in 2010 had only one set of tee times. Tamme has slightly reduced the number of teams playing in the morning and afternoon to make the rounds go faster. He also has a few spots left for four-member teams in the morning rounds (go to http://www.swingsforsoldiers.org for more information). There will be a 6:30 p.m. dinner and silent auction to conclude the fundraiser.
“We’ve had a few folks that have participated in the past that can’t for different reasons, but we’ve had new ones come in,” Tamme said. “We feel like we put on a neat event and it is for a great cause.”
His celebrity guest list can change but it will include UK football coach Joker Phillips for the first time as well as UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart. Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders will also play as well as Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb unless he has a late scheduling conflict. Former UK quarterbacks Shane Boyd, Bill Ransdell and Jared Lorenzen will play
Former UK basketball players Ron Mercer, Walter McCarty and Antoine Walker are all possibilities. Former UK All-American guard Kyle Macy will play along with Mike Pratt, a former UK basketball standout and current analyst on the UK Radio Network.
Tamme’s former Indianapolis teammate, quarterback Curtis Paynter, is also coming back. He’s now with the Baltimore Ravens.
County music singer John Michael Montgomery has also indicated he’ll play.
“We will have five or six military guests as celebrity golfers, too,” Tamme said. “Ken Preston, the new president for Home for Our Troops, will also play golf.”
Tamme is pleased that Kenneth Parker of Evansville will attend also. Proceeds from the event will be going to help fund his new home.
Tamme and his wife, Allison, will be going July 20-22 to go help with the construction. “Allison knows every bit as much about what to do as I do. Basically, they’ll just have to tell us what to do and we will try not to mess up,” Tamme said.
Little goes wrong at the Tammes’ event because of the volunteers, including numerous family members, that help. Tamme also credits Jamie Legate (859-913-9261, email@example.com) and Kate Ballard (502-294-0439, firstname.lastname@example.org) for handling even more organizational details this year as he made the move from Indianapolis where he played for four years to Denver.
“It has been a crazy time, but we’ve had so much support for this event,” Tamme said. “Jamie and Kate have been unbelievable.
“We will have a lot of the same volunteers this year, and people enjoy that. We have become friends with several people we did not know before through this event. I also think people enjoy see the family members we have volunteering and working.”
* * *
Anyone wishing to make a donation can go to SwingsforSoldiers.org, click on the donate button and follow instructions. Or you can send a check payable to Homes for Our Troops care of me at Box 149, Danville, Ky., 40422, and I will get the checks to Tamme. I’ll even match the first $100 in donations for this worthy cause.
By LARRY VAUGHT
During his three-year career, Patrick Towles broke the passing records that former University of Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen set at Fort Thomas Highlands â€” and no one was happier than Lorenzen.
â€œI challenged him in high school to prove he could break all my records and also shoot for (quarterback) Gino Guidugli and he topped all that and made me look like an idiot,â€ said Lorenzen. â€œThe best thing is he was always wanting to know more. It was, â€˜Tell me this, what can I learn.â€™ He had no ego at all and that was really cool to see in someone so young.â€
Towles was the center piece of UKâ€ˆcoach Joker Phillipsâ€™ recent signing class. The 6-5, 240-pound Towles, a Parade All-American and Kentuckyâ€™s Mr. Football, completed 171 of 279 passes in 2011 for 3,820 yards and 42 touchdowns while running for 589 yards and 15 scores. In his career, he passed for 7,429 yards and 73 touchdowns and ran for 1,718 yards and another 38 scores. His team went 44-1 and won three straight state titles.
Lorenzen, who helped coach Highlands in 2010, says â€œwithout questionâ€ Towles is better prepared to play at UKâ€ˆthan he was.
â€œEverything changed when I came out in â€˜99. Coaches talk a lot more, offenses have evolved a lot more,â€â€ˆLorenzen said. â€œThe offense Highlands runs is a lot closer now to what UKâ€ˆruns. Heâ€™s bigger, stronger and faster than I was coming out of high school. He is as ready as a senior can be to jump into college football.â€
Some are speculating Towles could challenge Morgan Newton, last yearâ€™s starter for most of the season, or Maxwell Smith, who started after Newton was hurt, for the No. 1 quarterback job. Lorenzen redshirted his freshman season, and was glad he did.
â€œI thought I was ready to play.â€ˆI wasnâ€™t. The best thing I ever did was redshirt,â€ Lorenzen said. â€œI tellâ€ˆPat the best thing he could do is redshirt. Travel, go to games, see what everything is like. But donâ€™t play.
â€œHaving said that, the day after basketball is over I am going to work with him and make sure he will be ready if he has to step in. He wants to start right away, so Iâ€ˆhave to have him ready. In a perfect world, he would redshirt, learn and come back and play four years.â€
Playing as a freshman requires not only talent, which Towles has, but also poise.
â€œYou either have it or you donâ€™t. Itâ€™s hard to learn poise under pressure,â€â€ˆLorenzen said. â€œHe gets upset if he makes a bad throw or has a pick (interception). If he was not mad about it, I would be worried. But he forgets and doesnâ€™t dwell on bad plays. He just keeps his cool and does not let others around him lose their cool. He does not do anything to hurt his team.â€
Lorenzen is glad Towles signed with Kentucky. He says there were no â€œdrawbacksâ€ in his mind with Kentucky.
â€œI told him he was a Kentucky kid raised on Kentucky football. If that is all you know and what you love, what are you missing by going to Kentucky. You are making your dreams come true and there is also a very good chance you will play a lot. When it is all said and done, the cream always rises to the top at any school,â€â€ˆLorenzen said. â€œThere are people in the NFL from all over the place. If you are good enough, you will be seen. So why not play in front of the people you love the most?
â€œTo me, it was a no-brainer for him to come to Kentucky. Same with me. Itâ€™s close to home, but not far away. If you can go help turn the program around, why wouldnâ€™t you. All these guys that are going out of state to play, why? If you grew up loving Kentucky, why go anywhere else. It is a lot of fun playing at the University of Kentucky. You can have more fun that you ever imagined.â€
Lorenzen says the chance to win at Kentucky is much better now, too.
â€œItâ€™s not even close to what it was when I was there,â€ he said. â€œWe went 2-9 back-to-back years. You see where coach (Rich) Brooks took them. They had a coaching change and have had a minor slip, but we will be back. Itâ€™s like riding a roller coaster when you change coaches. Joker will get them back where they need to be and Pat will help. Joker can recruit and coach. Heâ€™s just got to get guys ready to go. Itâ€™s the SEC and does not get any harder. Just look at who wins the national championship every year. You are going to hit a bumpy road playing in the SEC.
â€œI think Patâ€™s commitment early was huge for Kentucky. You see guys not sure what they are going to do and then a star commits and you want to play with other starts. Thatâ€™s just human nature. You want to play with the best. These guys talk to each other all the time. You see one stud go to Kentucky, then you want to go. Look at the basketball team every year. (John) Calipari gets one commit early and it helps all the ones who are teetering.â€
Towles father, Terry, says his son didnâ€™t mind being the face of UK recruiting because of his early commitment.
â€œI donâ€™t think all the attention bothered him from a sports perspective. Actually, the whole season was almost surreal. I donâ€™t think anybody could have realistically pictured the season and career he had and we just all hope it continues at UK,â€ Terry Towles said. â€œHe has not changed at all. Heâ€™s never got big-headed. Heâ€™s stayed grounded. He has tutored a kid at school each week. He realizes now it is even more important for him to stay grounded. Heâ€™s made a conscious effort to do that, too. Heâ€™s the same kid he always was, maybe just a little bit more mature.
â€œActually, he relished that position in recruiting.. His only frustration came from the constant questions about his commitment. I remember at the state final when he told a reporter he would write it in stone if he could. He did get a little tired of always having to defend his commitment to Kentucky. Being the face of the program, or recruiting, did not bother him but all the negativity did. He was always going to Kentucky.â€
Lorenzen says â€œthere is not one best thingâ€ that Towles â€” who spend his spring break last week at Kentuckyâ€™s spring practice trying to get a head start on learning the offense â€” does.
â€œWhat he really does well is win. That trumps throwing the ball 70 yards or running a 4.4 (40-yard dash). He lost one game at Highlands. One game,â€ Lorenzen said. â€œCan he threw 65-70 yards? Yes. Can he run fast? Sure he can. Is he accurate? Yes. He has everything you want and he wins. That trumps everything. He is just a really good kid. You will not have any disciplinary problems with him. He wonâ€™t be out late. He will show up early. He will have a 3.5 (grade-point average) or better.
â€œHe is definitely more mature than I was. I think about 95 percent of kids probably are. They have all these summer camps, one-on-one time. Itâ€™s a whole different world. Thatâ€™s why it has been neat to watch Pat from when Iâ€ˆfirst met him as a sophomore to now. Heâ€™s way mature beyond his year. He is a fun kid to be around. And whenever possible, I am going to be back at Kentucky to see him play because Iâ€ˆknow how good heâ€™s going to be.â€