Stoops impressed with development

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 Joshua Huff

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Spring practice has come and gone for UK football and if all signs point true, next season should be the year that the Cats hurdle the elusive bowl eligible sixth game.

“I feel very good about this team,” head coach Mark Stoops said on Wednesday. “Again, we know where we’re deficient and where we need to improve, but I like the attitude and I feel like we have good young talent that’s still developing that’s going to get better with every opportunity.”

That development rings particularly true at the quarterback position with Patrick Towles and Drew Barker fighting for the starting job come fall. Towles has shone the most improvement of the two, with his accuracy and deep ball proficiency drastically improving since last year. The two, however, would be nowhere without the growth of UK’s receivers.

“I think Garrett Johnson really took a big step,” Stoops said. “Blake Bone really had some big plays. Again, today (Wednesday) really had some flashes of catching the ball and making some impressive catches today.”

Six months, however, separate the end of spring practice and the start of the regular season. A span where players can either grow or regress. And according to Stoops, the quarterbacks need to be the leaders and keep everybody focused throughout the summer.

“Quarterbacks need to keep everybody accountable in the summer,” he said. “We’re not allowed to spend time with them. Certainly we’re not allowed to be around them when they have a football, so they have to do that on their own and the quarterbacks certainly have to take charge of when they’re throwing and making sure and keeping accountability.”

Unlike last summer when UK entered without a starter even in mind, the Cats break practice with a probable starter and something that has eluded UK the past few seasons – consistency. Stoops harped on the drastic improvement the team had undergone this offseason.

“I feel like certainly these 15 practices this spring have been the most consistent we’ve been,” he said.

UK certainly has been a cleaner football team, especially on offense. Running back Stanley “Boom” Williams continues to grow and looks to have a breakout 2015-16 campaign. Towles is improving; the line, with the addition of freshman stud George Asafo-Adjei has grown in size and the wideouts along with freshman tight end C.J. Conrad are a bigger threat than last year.

“I’m seeing more and more quality football plays,” Stoops said. “That’s when you know you’re growing. When a guy may be covered and comes down with a big catch or it looks like he’s going to make the catch and we strip it out of there. There have been good competitive plays.”