UK Football

Pressure of QB competition behind, Kentucky's Towles ready to 'let it all hang out'

Newly named starting quarterback Patrick Towles threw a pass at practice on Monday. "He's talented enough to run any offense, really," Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said.
Newly named starting quarterback Patrick Towles threw a pass at practice on Monday. "He's talented enough to run any offense, really," Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. Herald-Leader

Over and over, Patrick Towles replayed the speech his head coach gave him at this time last year when he told him he hadn't won the starting quarterback spot.

"He brought me in there and was like, 'Hey, you're doing a good job but there's still some stuff you need to work on before you can really make a run at this thing,'" Towles remembered Mark Stoops saying a year ago.

Those words, coupled with a list of necessary improvements from offensive coordinator Neal Brown, helped drive the 6-foot-5, 238-pound Mr. Football from Highlands to get better.

Those words sent him to seek outside help for his throw, his footwork, his decision-making, pretty much everything that made him a quarterback.

"I went out and fixed everything that he had said," Towles recalled.

So there was Towles on Monday morning sitting with Stoops again and hearing those same words come from his coach's mouth.

Had he really lost his third quarterback competition?

"All the color drops out of my face," Towles continued. "It was bad. I was like, 'Oh my gosh.'"

But Stoops, known especially in his younger days for being a bit of a prankster, couldn't keep up the ruse any longer.

"I couldn't do that too long because he's been through a lot," Stoops said of the joke. "I didn't have the heart to drag that out for more than about five seconds."

Stoops smiled as he told Towles that he was Kentucky's starting quarterback this season, that all the work the redshirt sophomore had done was enough.

In his first chat with the media since the decision, Towles was all smiles. He was loose. He was comfortable, the same way he's felt in practice since earning the spot on Monday morning.

The stress of constantly being in a quarterback competition has taken the edge off.

"During the competition I would make a bad throw, and I'd constantly be like, 'Gosh,'" he said. "Every throw had to be perfect, but now it's a relief that I can go out and just let it all hang out and play."

Again, he started to feel like the quarterback at Highlands who won three state championships and had a 33-1 record as a starter.

"I was just able to play and just make plays," Towles said. "That's a good feeling."

And much like his time at Highlands, when he threw for 7,429 yards and 73 touchdowns as well as rushing for 38 more, Towles and his coaches believe he can move this offense.

"He's talented enough to run any offense, really," Brown said.

Towles was coy about how he'd fit in the offense.

"I'd like to say I can run the ball a little bit when I have to," the new starter said. "The spread just opens things up. It opens up more running lanes. It lets you put the ball in your playmakers' hands."

He's already getting butterflies about being back on the field. The last time was late in 2012 at Tennessee.

"It's going to be a little different, but it's going to be fun," Towles said. "I'm excited about it."

Edwards heading to UK

One of Kentucky's top signees from the 2014 class, who deferred enrollment because of probable shoulder surgery, might be on the team this season after all.

Mike Edwards, a four-star safety whom recruiting experts said could help the Cats right away, tweeted on Tuesday that he was headed to Lexington. "No more surgery for me," he tweeted. "I'll be down at UK tomorrow!"

A Kentucky spokesman said Edwards has been cleared to enroll at Kentucky but "has not been cleared to participate in football at this time."

Edwards told the Herald-Leader in July that his surgery to repair a separated shoulder was scheduled for August.

"I played with it last year," Edwards said. "It bothered me somewhat, but I played through it. I just need to get it taken care of because this is the next level. Bigger guys and stuff. It could happen again, and I'm not trying to risk that at all."

The 5-foot-11, 182-pound safety from Ohio had 46 tackles, six interceptions and two fumble recoveries in his senior season. He selected Kentucky over Louisville, Missouri, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Vanderbilt.

If available, Edwards could be a big help for the Cats at safety, especially after they lost fellow four-star freshman Darius West to a lower leg injury early in camp.

After West went down, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot lamented the loss of another key safety. "At that position, we needed depth, and losing one of those guys is something we didn't need to happen."

Injury updates

Kentucky's offensive coordinator was asked about health concerns for players going into the season opener on Aug. 30 against Tennessee-Martin.

"I think Alex (Montgomery) is a concern early," Brown said of the wide receiver who is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament. "It's probably a little bit early to start ruling people out for Martin. Alex will be the only question at this point."

Running back Jojo Kemp, who has sat out several practices the past few weeks, will be ready to go. "He'll be fine," Brown said. "He got a lot of work in our scrimmages and we're just being cautious with him."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader