Who will be UK’s next quarterback?


Quarterback Patrick Towles of the Kentucky Wildcats runs during the second half of the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Papa Johns Cardinals Stadium on Saturday, November 29, 2014 in Louisville, Ky. Louisville defeated Kentucky 44-40. Photo by Michael Reaves

By Josh Ellis

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Big Blue Nation is getting anxious again – not for basketball, but for football. Mark Stoops, now in his third year as head coach, has a Kentucky team that could break the streak of four consecutive years without a bowl appearance.

Stoops has acquired ex-West Virginia offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson to take over the offensive reigns next season, and he will have a big decision to make right from the get-go.

Who will be the Wildcats’ starting quarterback in 2015?

The frontrunner this offseason has been incoming junior Patrick Towles. Last season, Towles became the first Kentucky quarterback since Andre Woodson in 2007 to start every game.

The Fort Thomas, Ky. native caught many opposing teams’ attention last year when they saw his uncanny ability to throw the deep ball, completing 11 passes for 40 yards or more last season.

If Towles does become the starter, expect his production to be much improved. In 2014, he finished the season 225-for-393 with 14 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

And Towles is slated to have a better year, partly because he will be taking snaps from an offensive line that his bigger and deeper than he’s ever had. Also, a revamped receiving core will allow Towles to throw to a variety of receivers, not just Ryan Timmons.

There is no guarantee that Patrick Towles will be the starter come September 5, however. Redshirt-freshman Drew Barker has been competing for the starting job since the spring, and has showed promise coming in as part of the heralded 2014 recruiting class.

Barker, who has good arm strength and intangibles, had a great spring camp working with Shannon Dawson and the UK offense. Though Towles’ experience may give him a leg up on Barker, it is likely that both quarterbacks will be taking first-team snaps come August.

Another quarterback that will be vying for first-steam snaps, or for second-team snaps at the very least, is sophomore Reese Phillips.

After a Patrick Towles injury early in last year’s game against Tennessee, Phillips came in to fill the role as leader of the UK offense. He went 0-for-4 with one interception in his debut against SEC competition.

Philips also saw the field against Tennessee-Martin and Louisiana Monroe, but only threw for a combined 45 yards. He finished the 2014 season throwing 2-for-9.

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson likes Phillips’ football IQ and ability to make the smart play. Despite an Achilles’ tendon injury during the spring, Dawson expects the sophomore to be in the mix come August.

Dawson has already changed the way the quarterbacks drop back, the way the offensive linemen stand and the process in which the offensive unit communicates.

Will he change the starting quarterback in 2015?

Well, that’s up to Patrick Towles, Drew Barker and Reese Phillips to decide.