UK football notebook: Towles showing off his new throwing form

Herald-Leader staff writerApril 12, 2014 

UK quarterback Patrick Towles hasn't played in a game since 2012, when in five games he completed 19 of 40 passes.


He has no idea if he's going to win Kentucky's quarterback competition, but if Patrick Towles is going to go down, he's going to go down throwing.

But that throw is going to look significantly different than the one that helped him pass for 7,429 yards and 73 touchdowns at Highlands.

Through two previous quarterback competitions for two different coaching staffs, Towles figured out that a "dip" in his throwing motion was a massive roadblock in getting a chance to play for Kentucky.

"It's frustrating because you know what you could do and not doing it is frustrating, but if you're a competitor you try to do everything you can to get back," Towles said recently.

After he struggled through the previous competitions and now that he's one of four competing for the top spot this spring with Jalen Whitlow, Reese Phillips and Drew Barker, most guessed that Towles would fall behind again.

But what Towles has done to improve his throwing motion and his footwork this off-season have drawn high praise from his coaches.

"Patrick's mechanics I've been impressed with," Coach Mark Stoops said of the red-shirt sophomore. "I just feel like he's better. He's getting rid of the ball quicker. It's not taking him as long to make decisions. That's been good."

Through discussions with UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown and Stoops, Towles learned that his throw was the key thing keeping him from being a factor in the Cats' quarterback race.

"I had a huge dip when I was throwing the ball and it wasn't getting out soon enough," Towles explained.

So the 6-foot-5, 236-pound quarterback decided to do something about it.

He was tired of the throwing dip causing his stock to dip.

Towles sought outside help from Donny Walker, who runs his own quarterback academy and is director of football of the Tony Franklin System, which helps teach the no-huddle style offense to teams around the country at all levels.

"I've been working with Donny Walker as much as I can to shorten my release and (be) quicker on my feet, and it's really been beneficial," Towles said.

"I knew there was a fundamental issue during the fall. I wasn't doing as well as I should've been, so I needed a guy that I could work with and I went out and found him. He's been really, really, really helpful."

There's been a dramatic improvement for Towles, who hasn't seen the field since 2012 when he played in five games, completing 19 of 40 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown.

"His biggest improvement is getting his feet ready where he can throw it," UK's offensive coordinator said. "His ball is coming out faster. He doesn't have that long windup. He worked really hard on it, and you have to give him a lot of credit."

Towles' old bad habits haven't returned, even when he's been put in stressful situations during practice. He even found Ryan Timmons for a 10-yard touchdown pass on a screen pass in the first situational (third down) scrimmage of the spring.

"Now I'm more straight back and over the top, it's so much more efficient, so much more consistent," Towles said of his throwing motion. "I'm like a whole new player."

Coaches have just seen a player who has changed enough to make him a contender in the current quarterback race.

"I really haven't seen it much this spring," Brown said of the dip in Towles' throwing motion. "He's doing a good job. I'm pleased with how he's worked, how he's progressed. Fundamentally, he's a lot better than he was since I've been here. I'm excited about it. I'm excited about him."

Brown wasn't the only one to use the word excited when discussing Towles' future.

"I'm miles ahead of where I was, so much improved," the quarterback said. "Quickness and everything this year. I'm excited by what's going to happen."

But even if he doesn't win the job, Towles said the idea of transferring someplace where he could put his new throwing motion and footwork to use hasn't crossed his mind.

"No. No. I love it here," he said. "My parents are from here. I love Kentucky. I'm here for the long haul."

Timmons' consistency

"Consistency" is a random goal, hard to quantify, hard to track. It's a high water mark that coaches talk about constantly.

But Ryan Timmons seems to understand what his coaches want from him and has worked to get there this off-season both as a wide receiver and possibly as a punt returner.

"I'm more consistent with my routes, with blocking, I'm more consistent with that," the sophomore wide receiver said this week. "With blocking, that's one of the things I struggled with last year. I've focused more on my blocking."

A few things, including never spending a lot of time in the weight room because of his bouncing from one sport to the next in high school, combined with shoulder surgery before starting at UK, kept Timmons from getting to the size coaches wanted him at.

But he seems to be where they want him to be now.

"We know he's good with the ball in his hands and he's got to learn to get open, it's not just screens and fly motions and handing him the ball and all that," Stoops explained of his second-leading receiver from last season with 32 catches for 338 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's improving, he really is. He's making some big plays. He's been more consistent; he's stronger. I like the way he's playing."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown has been talking to Timmons a lot about a player he had at Troy named Jerrel Jernigan, who started as an option quarterback in high school and then became a top-notch wideout for the Trojans.

"From the end of the season in 2007 through spring practice, into the start of the season in 2008, Jerrel changed his body, really learned how to play receiver, and he was a first-team all-conference player, a third-round draft pick, so on and so on," Brown explained.

"So that's kind of the guy I've been talking to Ryan about. I'm pleased with where he's at. His practice habits are a lot better. He's catching the ball more consistently. And he gives us a big-play threat."

With Javess Blue out with off-season surgery, Timmons also has been getting his fair share of looks as a returner, which he seemed to welcome.

"It's tough catching punters from high school into college," he said. "They kick the ball off a lot higher and the reaction time is a lot slower. But I'm comfortable back there, so if coach needs me, I'll be back there. It's another opportunity to try to improve on the offensive side of the ball, get us closer to the end zone so we can put more points up on the board.

"We need playmakers on the team and it's one of the things we struggled with on the team last year: catching punts. So if coach needs me to step up, I'll do that."

Goals for spring?

When spring practice started a year ago, it was still a getting-to-know-you period for Stoops, his coaches and the players. The goals this spring are a little bit different than they were a season ago.

"This spring it's seeing more and more competitive play, seeing guys step up and just get better technique-wise," Stoops explained. "We've got to get beyond the baby steps, and we've got to make routine plays look routine, and now we've got to go up make competitive plays."

In Stoops' mind, competitive plays are receivers grabbing the ball out of the air even when they're covered, and defensive backs making a play on the ball, unlike last season when the Cats were tied for last in the nation for interceptions with three.

"That's the big thing, the big focus is improving."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Email: Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog:

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