Simply put, in order for Kentucky to go bowling, its quarterback play has to excel at the “3 C’s”, Consistency, Captain, and Confidence.
In 2015, for Patrick Towles to take a step forward, he has to run less and raise his completion ratio to above 62%. One manner to do so is to complete the easy throws, or high percentage passes. These plays move the chains and increase the likelihood of extending drives that could turn into points. 2014 saw Towles struggle with the simpler passing tasks, but excelling while running the football. His runs were both planned draws and impromptu scrambles. Enter Shannon Dawson. While watching an open practice, Patrick tucked the ball and ran instead of attempting to check down in his progression for a sure completion. Coach Dawson wasn’t happy. I’ll use much kinder and G rated vernacular. Dawson loudly asked Pat if he wanted to play running back. That small interaction describes UK’s 2015 offensive intent.
The quarterback we saw throughout Kentucky’s red hot 5-1 start appeared much different than the one seen in the 0-6 finish. National and local talking heads were proclaiming Patrick to be next in line in the UK historical hierarchy. Down the stretch, the young Cats hit the proverbial wall. Let me make this perfectly clear, the six game losing streak was on the shoulders of 85 players, not just one. However, during the season’s rough patch, Patrick Towles’ mojo seemed to disappear at times. Not uncommon. Twelve games make up a long season, especially for an offensive player that carried the majority of the load by himself. Pat’s eyes and body language didn’t look right. He appeared overly frustrated, which is not uncommon for an intense competitor when things aren’t going right. There are many reasons as to why: inconsistent running back play in blitz pickup, receivers’ inability to release from the line of scrimmage into their route, tight ends all but invisible, and a young offensive line all helped create an offensive rut. Previously listed Wildcat limitations are 2015’s expected strengths. But even with the losing streak, Towles’ statistics were solid and in the upper SEC echelon. NFL scouts rave about Towles’ ability. He can make virtually every throw in the passing tree. 2015 can possibly see Patrick Towles catapult into the national conversation. Regardless, a confident quarterback can shape a team’s personality. Towles made the Atlanta claim on the SEC Network. I like that version of Pat Towles.
This “C” isn’t referring to being elected to a leadership position based upon a popular vote. Going back to the Clown vs. Captain Debate, Patrick Towles doesn’t have a choice other than to be a consistent, living definition of a Captain. So far, that’s exactly what he’s done. The starting quarterback is the first in the Nutter Center and last out. He must hold offensive mates accountable, not so much by verbal confrontation, however, at times that becomes necessary. Leading by example in non-football activities are as important as his pass attempt during a 3rd and goal to go in the 4th quarter.
I used all of those words to say, Patrick Towles has to be the undeniable leader and accountability enforcer of the offense. From all accounts, he has been and will continue to be. He’s impressed in this category.
Being a starting quarterback is a colossal responsibility. With that obligation comes scrutiny and accountability. There is no time to waste effort in trying to be the “cool kid”, or everyone’s favorite teammate. There is a mammoth difference in being a leader and being popular. That dynamic is learned through experience but is also an innate trait. Drew Barker has learned this lesson the hard way. Mark Stoops is trusting that Drew’s advanced past that phase of his life and moved onto focusing on the art of playing team athletics’ most difficult position. Every player on the team wants to be the quarterback- except on game day. The weight the position carries on Towles’ shoulders during the Cat Walk is indescribable. Conversely, the gratification following a win is inexpressible.
Drew Barker is the backup quarterback. Many times, this depth chart spot is the most popular with Monday Morning Quarterbacks. Drew experienced a rough start to his college football career. No need in reviewing or rehashing. Barker’s throwing motion is now more fluid. His confidence has never lacked. If called upon, Drew Barker can lead the team and play at a starter’s level. The QB competition was real. Both he and Towles practiced at a high level. Going into the season with two capable quarterbacks is a luxury. From my limited time observing Drew at open practices, he seems as if a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. He seems to “get” it, and is taking his team role seriously. All positive indications for the redshirt freshman.
Reese Phillips is recovering from an Achilles tear, a tough injury for a thrower to overcome. If healthy, Reese is a capable, extremely accurate quarterback. Reese and Drew will be Patrick’s extra set of eyes on the sideline. The trio’s sideline communication is critical.
As the Kentucky quarterback goes, so will the 2015 Wildcats. That may seem like an unnecessary amount of pressure to be placed on a college student, but,that’s part of playing the position. Much like Calipari’s point guard, if things go bad QB’s receive the blunt of the blame. If the Cats light up the scoreboard, QB’s get all of the glory. Both in unrealistic surplus.
The truth of the matter: UK will have to average 35-37 points per game to win six. There’s no way around it. September is the most critical month of the season. There are several factors that support this claim, but the most obvious is on the other side of the football and in particular, the linebacker position. Jason Hatcher’s suspension and Ryan Flannigan’s ailing shoulder puts a tremendous strain on the offense to not only score points, but sustain drives and keep opposing offenses off the field. The cold hard truth is that Patrick Towles will need to play the best month of football in his career in order for Kentucky to at least break even at 2-2. A sub-.500 September hampers postseason likelihood. Full disclaimer, on the KSR podcast I picked the Cats to start the season 3-1.
On a rope-Describes a pass that is thrown to a pass catcher in a straight line, non-arching trajectory and with high velocity.
Pull the string-Opposite of above, a pass that has touch or loft in order for the football to avoid underlining defenders. “Taking a little off” is another term that can be used.
Happy feet-Was a great kid’s movie, seen it a hundred times. However, when dealing with QB’s, this phrase is used when their feet are choppy in the pocket and usually leads to a fundamentally-flawed throws. Old timers (like me) use this description while describing a scared or unsure QB in the pocket.
Step up in the pocket-Blocking schemes are designed to create an umbrella effect around the quarterback. Outside blockers or offensive tackles are trained to push or force pass rushers outside the pocket. At times, the QB has to slightly shuffle forward to avoid the rush to attempt a pass. This QB pocket fundamental comes through experience and is difficult to teach.
On a dime-When a QB throws a pass that is highly accurate, normally in a location that the pass’s intended receiver is the only player that has a chance to make the catch.