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The Towles Era Begins, Whether We Like It or Not
With today’s announcement that starting QB Maxwell Smith will be out indefinitely with a serious ankle injury, UK Coach Joker Phillips announced that the team would utilize a platoon of freshmen Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles under center for this weekend’s matchup with Mississippi State.
Earlier in the season, I thought that Patrick Towles had no real reason to play this season. Let him observe the game from the sidelines for a season, get a good handle on the collegiate system and come in as a redshirt freshman and compete for playing time. After all, UK already had guys with quarterbacking experience in Smith and Morgan Newton as well as true freshman Whitlow and redshirt freshman Bookie Cobbins on the bench. There was enough depth at the position to justify redshirting UK’s best in-state quarterbacking prosect since the days of Tim Couch, Andre’ Woodson and Jared Lorenzen.
Of course, the best laid plans of mice and SEC head coaches often go astray.
Newton is trying to make it as a tight end these days, and Cobbins made the switch to wideout, not to mention his recent run-ins with the law. That leaves only one healthy quarterback on the roster in the exciting but green-as-a-gourd Whitlow. I mean sure, you could probably move Newton back to quarterback, but let’s be honest, he never looked comfortable as a QB and would be better suited to use his athleticism at a different position. Besides, it would be terrible for his development to keep switching positions back and forth.
I was also concerned about Towles being thrown to the lions (and Tigers, and Gators, etc.) so soon into his UK tenure due to the current coaching hotseat. It’s no secret around these parts that Joker’s job is in jeopardy. With losses to Florida (kinda understandable), South Carolina (disappointing, but it was almost expected), Louisville (sucked hard) and Western Kentucky (…), Joker will be lucky to make it to next season as Big Blue’s head man. And with the very real possibility that there’ll be a new head coach next year, it would be burdensome for Towles to try to learn Joker’s system just to chuck it in the waste basket next season and learn an entirely new scheme. The way to develop a blue-chip quarterback is NOT to confuse him.
Nope, there’s no denying it at this point, Towles must play. They simply no longer have a choice. But if he’s going to play, they may as well make the best of it. Realistically, it’s going to be hard to win many games from here on out, barring a miracle or another team’s bus breaking down on the way to Commonwealth Stadium. So with no real pressure to win, Towles can take the opportunity to get himself acquainted with SEC defenses. If he’s to be the quarterback of the future, he’ll need to learn how hard those linebackers and ends can hit, and how stealthy the secondary corps can be. Better he learn now in a low-pressure situation such as this than learn the hard way when the chips are down.
It may not be ideal, it may not have been the way we wanted it, but the Towles Era of UK football is now upon us.