UK Football

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles says he will transfer

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles (14) and Kentucky Wildcats guard Zach West (75) walked off the field after the University of Kentucky lost to the University of Louisville at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, November 28, 2015. This is fourth quarter action. Louisville won 38-24.
Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles (14) and Kentucky Wildcats guard Zach West (75) walked off the field after the University of Kentucky lost to the University of Louisville at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, November 28, 2015. This is fourth quarter action. Louisville won 38-24. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Saying he will “bleed blue until the day he dies,” Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles bid adieu to the Cats in an announcement via Instagram on Sunday afternoon.

The redshirt junior, who lost his starting job to Drew Barker the last two games of the season, has a year of eligibility left and plans to transfer, but he did not indicate where.

“I would like to thank the University of Kentucky for giving me the opportunity to achieve my childhood dream of playing quarterback for the Wildcats,” said Towles, who will complete his political science degree in December and have one year of eligibility remaining.

“The last four years have been ones that I will truly cherish for the rest of my life. Although I wish my time here in Lexington could have ended another way, I’m eternally grateful.”

Towles finished his Kentucky career with 5,099 yards passing and 29 touchdowns to 19 interceptions in 22 starts. His final passing percentage was 56.3 (427-for-759). The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder also rushed for nearly 353 career yards and 11 touchdowns.

His 5,447 yards of total offense put him sixth all-time at Kentucky behind Jared Lorenzen (10,637), Andre Woodson (8,870), Tim Couch (8,160), Mike Hartline (5,660) and Bill Ransdell (5,456).

I really think if you look in the direction this team is trying to go, I’m not sure that really suits his style of quarterback play. He’s not a guy that we all talk about the Air Raid and Tim Couch and Jared (Lorenzen). He’s not that type of quarterback that has that really quick release.

Jeff Piecoro, UK radio analyst

On his Instagram announcement the former Highlands star thanked Coach Mark Stoops, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and the UK athletics department for “allowing me to achieve my lifelong dream.”

In a release via UK, Stoops thanked Towles for everything he’d done for UK in his career: “I understand his decision and support him. He truly gave everything he had and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Towles looking elsewhere for playing time didn’t surprise Kentucky football color analyst Jeff Piecoro, who has followed Towles’ career since his high school days.

“I really think if you look in the direction this team is trying to go, I’m not sure that really suits his style of quarterback play,” Piecoro said Sunday. “He’s not a guy that we all talk about the Air Raid and Tim Couch and Jared (Lorenzen). He’s not that type of quarterback that has that really quick release.”

The 13-year UK radio veteran said as a player you come to the point where you “just know” it’s not going to work out.

“He came in so ballyhooed as a recruit,” Piecoro said. “He loses out the job his freshman year. He loses the job his sophomore year. He finally gets the job tenuously his junior year. You can only take so much, you want to call it rejection. Three different offensive coordinators in his three years playing quarterback, so that’s hard, too.”

Towles will be better used in a more conventional, dropback passing offense, Piecoro said.

“I see him as a Penn State quarterback, a Todd Blackledge type if you will,” the analyst added. “I just think that suits him well. … He needs to go to a team that runs the ball a lot.”

The Towles departure leaves Kentucky with third-string quarterback Reese Phillips and Barker, who completed 50 percent of his passes (35-for-70) in five games this season with two starts, two interceptions and a touchdown. He had 364 passing yards as well as 45 yards rushing.

5,447 yardsTotal offense generated by Patrick Towles, sixth-best in UK history

The redshirt freshman struggled in the second half against Louisville, connecting on one of his final 15 passes for minus-1 yards.

“He played well at times and I think it was frustrating because he missed some guys at times,” Dawson said of Barker. “We had some opportunities down the field that we knew all week we would have, and we just didn’t take advantage of it, which was frustrating.”

Kentucky’s offensive coordinator didn’t seem pleased with any of his options after the Louisville loss on Saturday when the Cats blew a 21-point lead and struggled offensively in the second half.

“Both of them are capable,” Dawson said of Towles and Barker. “Like I’ve said since Day 1, too: We’ve gotta have a lot of people playing around them.”

Dawson said he expected that there would be some growing pains when Kentucky moved to Barker and said there’s some “trial and error” involved.

“I never thought his confidence wavered; I really didn’t,” Dawson said of Barker. “I thought he went in there, made some great throws at times, kept the plays alive, and there’s probably four or five plays that he would like to have back. And we’d all like to have them back.”

High school quarterback Gunnar Hoak will join the Wildcats as a true freshman for the 2016 season. Hoak , a 6-foot-4, 190-pound prospect from Dublin, Ohio, is ranked by ESPN as a four-star recruit and the No. 14 pocket-passing QB in the class of 2016.

Hoak will graduate from high school in December and enroll at UK for the spring semester, which will allow him to participate in spring practice with the Wildcats. He completed 114 of 206 passes for 1,811 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions this season.

UK already has two commitments from quarterbacks in the class of 2017: Florida’s Mac Jones and Lexington native Walker Wood, who could switch positions when he gets to college.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

Ben Roberts contributed to this article.

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