Kentucky’s first fall camp scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday. That could be separation day for Kentucky’s quarterback race between the perceived favorite Patrick Towles and the challenger Drew Barker.
“I’m really comfortable with both those guys,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said after Friday’s practice.
Yes, but the coaches have to pick one, at least to be the starter. Head coach Mark Stoops indicated earlier this week that the staff is about to make public its choice. He mentioned Saturday and the scrimmage as a possible point when the staff could draw a halt to the competition.
The media has only had the opportunity to watch one practice so far, but still think Towles is the odds-on choice. He’s the returning starter. He appeared to exit spring ball in the lead, though Stoops stopped short of naming him starter. There has been no indication in fall camp that Towles has done anything wrong that might cause you to re-think the pecking order.
It also stands to reason that the longer the competition goes the better chance Barker has of unseating the returning starter. And both Stoops and Dawson have praised Barker’s play and his improvement as far as grasping the offense.
“A lot of it was just calming down in the pocket,” Dawson said, complimenting both Towles and Dawson.
“Drew is playing at a super-high level,” Towles said.
The one thing Barker lacks is experience. A highly-touted recruit coming out of Conner High School, Barker was redshirted last season. Then offensive coordinator Neal Brown departed to be the head coach at Troy. In came Dawson. Saturday is an opportunity in a game-type setting to show what he has learned.
Meanwhile, Towles said he feels more comfortable in the pocket and with the offense than a year ago. He admitted it was easy to see at time that his comfort level was lacking a year ago. Remember, through the season’s first eight games, the former Highlands star threw for 12 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions. Over the final four games, Towles threw just two TD passes while being picked off five times.
Towles is older now. He has three full seasons under his belt, two as a player, one as a starter. It would seem that Barker would have to make a big leap to unseat Towles as the starter, at least right now.
Earlier in the week, Dawson was asked if he could see a game scenario where both quarterbacks would play. He said he didn’t know, that he had never really done before in his coaching career, but you never say never. So we’ll see what happens on Saturday.
As for the receivers, Dorian Baker drew a lot of praise Friday. The sophomore is big, strong and athletic. Given the rise of bigger cornerbacks in the college game — I’ll have more from Dawson about that in a future post — there is a greater need on offense for tall receivers who can go up and get the ball. Baker could be one of those receivers.
There has also been a lot of talk about true freshman running back Sihiem King, a 5-foot-9, 185-pounder from Colquitt, Georgia who can really move. When he was an assistant at West Virginia, Dawson recruited King. When Dawson came to UK he kept right on recruiting King. And Friday, running backs coach Chad Scott indicated that King will play this year.