The quarterback position for the University of Kentucky football program is currently influx with two scholarship players being dealt season-ending injuries and grad transfer Sawyer Smith currently dealing with three different minor injuries. With Darin Hinshaw’s position room now being worn thin, the Wildcats are converting a slot receiver to full-time quarterback this week.
Lynn Bowden, Jr. starred at quarterback for Warren G. Harding High School where he was named Division II offensive player of the year and was runner-up for Mr. Football in Ohio in 2016. The blue-chip recruit finished as the state’s sixth all-time leading rusher with 7,387 career rushing yards, but also tossed the ball around a little bit. During his senior season, Bowden passed for over 1,300 yards while leading his team to a 11-2 record before a loss in the Division II Regional Championship.
He was a run-first quarterback for the Raiders, but was able to do some damage with his arm. We’ve seen some of that throughout the last three seasons in Kentucky’s wildcat package. Through his college career, Bowden has completed 66.7 percent of his nine passes and is putting up 14.55 yards per throw. Two of the three incompletions in his career have been interceptions, but he’s proven to have some throwing ability.
On this edition of KSR Film Room, we’ll take a look back to Bowden’s high school tape and what we’ve seen from him as a passer to this point in his college career. The star receiver does have some tools to play the position and he can probably make some throws you did not think he was capable of making.
For numerous reasons, Bowden’s high school staff preferred to get him on the run when passing the football. This element can work like a traditional play-action fake because the linebackers are thinking they need to stop the quarterback run first. This can create some wide open throwing lanes where a quarterback can play pitch-and-catch. Bowden comes out under control and hits the receiver closest to the left tackle for nice completion on the quick out route. Eddie Gran has used some sprint out concepts in the past on certain third down situations to try to create an easy throw on a flood passing concept (three receivers to one side of the field to take advantage of numbers for a defense not in man coverage). Expect to see similar actions used with Bowden at quarterback. Especially on third downs.
Another throw Bowden seems to be comfortable with is the slant route and this is something Kentucky could really take advantage of. With the quarterback run game now back in the offense, the Wildcats will see linebackers and safeties peeking into the backfield in an effort to get a head start on run defense. This aggressiveness can create an easy throw for your quarterback.
Here you see a classing RPO slant bubble look. The quarterback has three options on the play and Bowden makes the right read. After the fake, He sees the defensive back jump the bubble screen while the slant route gets behind the linebacker. It’s an easy throw for a big gain.
Speaking of man coverage, Kentucky has liked to go to Ahmad Wagner when given press coverage by throwing the fade. We’ve seen the former Iowa basketball transfer score on it twice this season and UK consistently has gone to it in key situations the last two weeks. This route has to be in the playbook because it’s a key play to get one of their best offensive players involved in the game. Bowden possesses that throw.
Just outside the red zone, the high school quarterback drops the ball in the bucket from about 35 yards out while throwing his receiver open for a touchdown. From all the throws you can find on Bowden, this one should excite you the most. Kentucky is still going to be able to take advantage of Wagner’s physical abilities because Bowden can deliver the ball on the fade.
On this week’s edition of Inside The Play, we showed just how dangerous Lynn Bowden, Jr. could be if he broke containment. One of the biggest plays against South Carolina occurred because of a defensive gaffe, but the mobile quarterback can also make something out of nothing.
This shortened GIF shows you some of that ability. On the play, Bowden had the ball for around 12 seconds as he made multiple defenders miss before dumping the ball off to his running back for a nice gain. Due to his athletic ability, he will give opposing defenses fits and this ability to extend plays could help Kentucky create some huge gains when the opposing defensive personnel is scattered.
On Bowden’s high school tape, there are multiple throws where he takes some deep shots but you unfortunately cannot see the full play due to the camera missing the reception. However, we have seen Bowden make a throw deep before.
Against Tennessee in 2017, UK uses Bowden on the sprint out look mentioned above and takes a deep shot. The true freshman hits Tavin Richardson on the Out-N-Up for a big completion. The ball traveled about 42 yards in the air for Bowden on this cold night with a glove on his throwing hand. As we saw last week, he takes it off when playing full-time quarterback and that should give his ball a little more juice. He can’t drive it well enough to throw a deep post, but he has enough arm talent to give his receiver a chance on a go-route on the outside.
If Sawyer Smith is unable to go against Arkansas and moving forward, Lynn Bowden, Jr. will not be a case of just putting your best athlete at quarterback and seeing what happens. The offensive star does have some arm talent and can make more throws than you expect. With that said, he’ll certainly have some limitations and he’ll need to prove he can read zone coverages to help Kentucky move the chains. However, this is going to be an establish the run first attack.
Kentucky now has the quarterback run game back in the offense and that is going to be a concern for every defense. If the offensive line gains some of the swagger back it lost the last two weeks, this should be a group that can do some really good things on the ground. You’ll have Kentucky’s tradition inside zone run staples, but off of that Eddie Gran will get to build more actions for the defense to cover. Expect everything from jet sweeps, to designed perimeter quarterback runs, and option elements where Bowden is reading an uncovered defender. He’ll have to make the proper reads in the option game, but in some ways, this offense just got much more difficult to defend with No. 1 behind center.