With a complete overhaul of the recruiting process, Coach Stoops and his staff at Kentucky have overseen an immense talent upgrade on the roster. New additions at key positions have been brought in to play early and often all over the field and the fans now have more energy than ever before. With that taken into consideration, it’s possible that the most important new player on the roster wasn’t even recruited by the new staff.
In fact, he isn’t even really new at all.
Prior to last season, I was guilty of favoring Patrick Towles in the quarterback competition, and I wasn’t shy about it. While Maxwell Smith’s experience was/is certainly valuable and Jalen Whitlow’s athleticism was intriguing at the time, Towles seemed like the obvious choice. Standing 6’5 and weighing in at 220 pounds, he had prototypical size and an NFL arm according to Chris Collinsworth, who knows a thing or two about the NFL passing game. Towles came to Kentucky as a Parade All-American that touted four state championship rings from Highlands High School that was so good his senior year that he and the rest of his first string offense rarely payed past halftime of their games. His bloodlines screamed “future pro” as his grandfather was former US Senator and major league baseball player Jim Bunning. The guy even LOOKS like a NFL quarterback with his crew cut and strong jaw. Add in that he was athletic enough as a senior to be labeled as an “athlete” instead of a quarterback by ESPN recruiting services, and it just seemed like a slam, dunk.
Only it wasn’t.
Towles should have never taken the field as a freshman in 2012 and wasted the year while suffering injuries that kept him from playing after his redshirt was burned midway, through the season. During the ensuing spring practice (post – coaching change) word got out that Towles was losing ground to Smith and Whitlow’s almost daily and ultimately, Stoops and company decided to redshirt him last year. After rumors went rampant that Reese Phillips had made major strides and had surpassed Towles on the depth chart, the team added Drew Barker to the roster and the general consensus was that Towles would likely head into the spring as the fifth placed quarterback and he was labeled as the most likely signal caller to transfer.
Only he didn’t.