Patrick Towles will start the season as UK's quarterback.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The ability to make the passing game sing is the reason Neal Brown is the offensive coordinator for the University of Kentucky.
Brown coordinated the offense at Texas Tech for three seasons. Every year the passing numbers improved, from 319 yards per game in 2010 to 345 ypg in 2011 to 356 ypg in 2012.
Kentucky did not average 356 yards per game passing last season, Brown's first as the Wildcats' offensive coordinator. In fact, Kentucky only threw for more than 260 yards in one game – Miami (Ohio).
This season needs to be better, much better.
And to make it better, UK coach Mark Stoops picked his starting quarterback Monday. The job belongs to Patrick Towles, the redshirt sophomore from Fort Thomas.
It wasn't a surprising call considering Towles' solid performance last spring, but it is one that is certain to generate conversation, considering the hype that was stirred when Stoops secured a commitment from Drew Barker from Conner High School last year.
So here are three reasons why Towles is – and is not – the right guy for the job.
THE RIGHT CALL
1. Towles is more than simply a thrower – he's an athlete. Check his numbers at Fort Thomas Highlands one more time. Not the 73 touchdown passes and 7,429 passing yards. He also ran for 1,718 yards and 38 touchdowns, 15 as a senior.
He might not be Vince Young, but Towles can run, always an important quality when you're trying to establish yourself in the Southeastern Conference.
2. Towles did the right thing by red-shirting last season. There's too much hype on young quarterbacks these days. Guys used to get a season or sometimes two to learn a new system and adjust to the frantic pace of the college game. Now they're judged every 140 characters.
Towles took a deep breath last season – and got better. He improved his football and throwing technique. He learned the Neal Brown offense without the demands of trying to deliver without a solid offensive line and receivers who could separate and make catches. One reason UK went with Jalen Whitlow last season is because he could make plays with his legs when his protection broke down.
This season Towles is ready. He studied. He improved. And he won the job.
3. Towles looks the part. Have you seen him on the field? Central casting would wave Towles behind center. He's a legitimate 6 feet 5 inches and nearly 240 pounds, built to withstand the inevitable high-octane hits that quarterbacks absorb in today's Southeastern Conference.
His arm also passes the test. The kid throws a nice ball. You even have to salute his choice of numbers: Towles wears 14 because that is the number that his maternal grandfather, Jim Bunning, wore during his Hall of Fame baseball career.
NOT THE RIGHT CALL
1. Why didn't Towles win the job last season? Kentucky needed a quarterback a badly as it needed a recruiting lounge. I understand that Stoops and Brown invested a redshirt season in Towles, enabling him to improve his technique.
But the new coaching staff was trying to install its Air Raid attack and all of the snaps went to Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith.
2. The SEC isn't warm and fuzzy to newcomers. Towles is not a complete newcomer. He did play in five games as a freshman, completing 19 of 40 passes with a touchdown and interception. But in the one game where Towles earned the majority of the snaps – Vanderbilt – he struggled, misfiring on 15 of 23 passes, while throwing for only 93 yards.
It's not an easy league to be the new kid on the block.
3. Kentucky fans are eager to see Barker, the team's true freshman quarterback. He's the guy with the jumbo arm – and the jumbo following on Twitter (19,901 followers, 8,423 more than Towles).
The back-up quarterback is always the most adored guy on team's that are not winning every weekend. Barker is already adored. Towles will need to deliver or fans will be howling for Barker to roll to the rescue.