Year three has been the year where many Kentucky quarterbacks make the leap to the next level. Tim Couch had a great sophomore year but it was year 3 that saw him lead the Cats to 7 wins and the number one pick in the draft. Andre Woodson looked like he was going to lose the starting job going into his junior year but he put in work and also led the Cats to seven wins. Somewhat unsurprising is that both those guys had their big years after getting a change in offensive coordinator. Shannon Dawson is about to do the same thing for Patrick Towles. Here’s how:
Converting on Third Down
Last season Kentucky converted on just 62 of 183 third downs. That’s an abysmal 33.9% and ranked 112th out of the 128 teams that play in the FBS. The blame isn’t all on Patrick on this one though. Part of the issue was playcalling on third down, part was the lack of an option at tight end for short yardage, and part was the inability of the offensive line to give the QB time to make a play. All of those areas should be improved for 2015. First, Shannon Dawson’s style of play converted 97 of 229 third downs (42.4%) at WVU last season. Second is the instant impact CJ Conrad and Greg Hart could make (provided they are healthy/eligible). Finally, a young line from last season will be even bigger and stronger this season. Guys like Jordan Swindle won’t have a single false start this year! That will surely make converting on third down much easier.
Building The Rapport
Towles took his first snap at Kentucky way back in the fall of 2012 which makes it feel like he’s been in Lexington forever. But any target he had during his extremely short stint that year is now long gone and last year he was throwing to mostly freshman and sophomores. Luckily most of the offense is coming back which means another year of practice for Towles and his receiving corps which should translate to great success this coming season. The increased rapport should lead to some big yardage plays in Shannon Dawson’s offense.
In an interview with ESPN Shannon Dawson talked about what got him the job in Lexington: “That’s probably one of the bigger reasons Coach Stoops hired me here. When we talked, I talked just as much about being physical and punching people in the mouth as throwing it down the field. In today’s game you have to be able to do both. Defenses play the pass a lot better than they did 5-6 years ago, and so if you can’t run the football a little bit and make them play honest, then you’re probably in a pickle.”
Dawson’s air raid will look to keep defenses on their heels and the pressure off of Mr. Towles. By the end of last season we had two options, throw up a prayer or run the Wildcat. SEC defenses had solved the Wildcat by that point and the lack of variety spelled doom for UK. That shouldn’t be an issue in year 3.
What do you think will be the reason Towles improves in Year 3? Or are you of the belief he is set to regress and Drew Barker will battle for playing time?