Don’t look now but the college football season is just under three weeks away. With every new season brings high levels of optimism and the belief that this is your team’s year, it also brings the inevitable and patent pending late season implosion by Clemson. Along with that serving of optimism comes the hope that this year’s crop of recruits can come in and immediately gel with the returning players to make a huge impact. Kentucky is no different in that department as Joker and staff brought in two excellent quarterback prospects who are looking to step in right away and prove they belong in the nation’s premier conference. Patrick Towles of Highlands High School (Kentucky) and Jalen Whitlow of Prattville High (Alabama) both led their respective schools to state titles as Seniors and won a fair share of individual awards, so they have demonstrated the ability to win in the past. But, how does that translate to the nation’s most daunting football conference?
Whitlow comes to Kentucky as a three star recruit from football powerhouse, Prattville High School. According to 247sports.com, he was the 20th best recruit in in the state of Alabama and the 12th best “dual-threat” quarterback entering college nationally. While his position is up in the air currently given the uncertainty on the depth chart at multiple positions, he wants to prove that he is a quarterback, “that’s my natural position.” Though looking at high school numbers you wouldn’t realize that, he only threw for 633 total passing yards with 7 touchdowns and 2 picks. It would be easy to look through these numbers and dismiss his quarterback play completely, but he averaged 7.4 yards per passing attempt and completed 62% of passes. The contributing factor to his low basic numbers would be the fact that he split time at quarterback with four-star recruit, Justin Thomas, who has enrolled at Georgia Tech. While basic numbers would indicate a sub-par passer, he is actually quite capable. Of course to earn the title of dual-threat QB one must have rushing statistics to back that up, and Whitlow certainly does. Last season he rushed for 644 yards on 82 attempts which comes out to a spectacular 7.85 yards per carry. To go with those numbers he also found the endzone 12 times as a rusher including this great 79 yard touchdown. What sticks out to me in highlights is the fact his head always seems to be looking down field when either passing or rushing, which may just be the best trait any quarterback could have. To accompany the passing and rushing, he is also a fantastic receiver. Sure it was at low volume, catching only 12 passes, but when completed he averaged 13.75 yards per reception. Whitlow is a do-it-all type that will excel just about anywhere you stick him, he certainly has the skills and size needed to succeed at this level, but how fast can a freshman really develop?
Patrick Towles certainly has a claim to one of the best seasons in Kentucky high school football history, leading his Highlands Bluebirds to an undefeated season (the school’s 21st state title), becoming Kentucky’s Gatorade player of the year in the process. Former Bengals’ Wide Receiver, Cris Collinsworth, even seems to think that Towles is as good as he has ever seen at that level. The numbers certainly back everything up, the 6’5”, 232 pound, four-star threw for 3820 yards while slinging 42 touchdowns and only 1 pick. Not only did he put up a high number of passing yards, it was done hyper-efficiently, completing 65% of passes and totaling 13.7 yards per passing attempt as a Senior. Around the high school football community Highlands is known for a “sophisticated offense” which will only help Patrick as Kentucky’s passing game has been difficult to pick up by past quarterbacks early on in their careers. With gaudy numbers also comes great athleticism, in this highlight tape he proves why the numbers are no fluke, demonstrating the ability to keep plays alive and improvise when the pocket collapses. More evidence to his awareness and athleticism are the rushing stats complied. Last year he finished with 589 rushing yards on 100 attempts (5.89 yards per carry) allowing him to compile 15 running touchdowns in addition to the 42 passing. Towles is the real deal, he’s the 9th overall quarterback nationally according to Rivals.com for good reason. The numbers are there, as is the size/athleticism, and from all accounts has his head on straight. Towles is everything you look for in a field general, but this is the SEC we’re talking about, can he be ready immediately or will a redshirt be in order while the two returning starters battle for the job? These are questions that only time can answer, but it’s certainly proven by the past that he is one hell of a quarterback prospect who will demand playing time sooner rather than later.