After naming Patrick Towles the starter on Monday, Mark Stoops officially announced yesterday what most of the BBN assumed, that UK will attempt to redshirt Drew Barker this year but would prepare him as the backup in case Towels cannot play the entire season. The question then becomes, at what point is it worth it to burn Barker’s redshirt and at what point is the season a lost cause and the best option is to save Barkers redshirt and play Reese Phillips or Maxwell Smith for the remainder of the season? It’s a question that must be considered because, as BTI pointed out this week, only two quarterbacks (A.J. McCarron of Alabama and Bo Wallace of Ole Miss) didn’t miss any playing time do to injury last season.
Scenario 1) Patrick Towles Plays for the Entire Season
Obviously, the best possible scenario as it means that a) Patrick Towles remains injury free and plays well and b) Drew Barker redshirts. This would be the best of both worlds for Mark Stoops, a successful season while allowing him to build for the future by letting Drew Barker learn on the sidelines and not under the pressure of SEC defenses.
Scenario 2) Patrick Towles Plays Well but is Injured Late in the Season
The key question in this scenario is, “how’s the season going?” Let’s say that Towles is injured around game eight (at Missouri). At best UK would likely be 5-3 (wins over UT Martin, Ohio, Vanderbilt, Louisiana Monroe, and Mississippi State) and at worst, 3-5 (wins over UT Martin, Ohio, and ULM).
In the 5-3 scenario, there is simply too much to play for not to pull Drew Barker’s redshirt. The Cats would need just one win over the final four games (at Missouri, vs Georgia, at Tennessee, at Louisville) to become bowl eligible. Although burning Barker’s redshirt two-thirds of the way into the season is a bitter pill to swallow, having four shots (three of them being “winnable” on paper) at securing a bowl bid is worth trading Barker’s senior season three years from now for a bowl game this season.
Alternatively, in the 3-5 scenario, the season is probably lost at that point as chances at a bowl bid would be so remote that the best option is to play Phillips or Smith for the rest of the season and keep Barker’s redshirt intact. If UK is 4-4 (splitting the MSU and Vandy games), then pulling Barker’s redshirt depends on how “winnable” two out of the last four games look at the beginning of November.
Scenario 3) Patrick Towles does not play well or is injured early in the season.
Outside of something completely unexpected happening, Towles will get the start in the first three games of the season (UT Martin, Ohio, Florida). The Cats are almost certain to be 2-1 and no matter what, will still have a lot to play for over the last two thirds of the season beginning with a critical matchup against the rebuilding Commodores following a bye week. If Towels looks shaky or is injured in the first three games, a bowl berth is still in play and thus enough reason to let Barker play out the rest of the season.