LEXINGTON — Patrick Towles said everyone got a fresh start when the new Kentucky coaching staff came aboard, and he’s hoping that will give him his chance to show he should be the Wildcats’ starting quarterback this season.
“It’s what sport is all about. You want to come out here and prove to whoever you need to prove it to that you’re better and you deserve to play. And we’re all out here trying to show coach (Neal) Brown and coach (Mark) Stoops we deserve to play,” Towles said Wednesday after Kentucky’s practice.
“When a new staff comes in, everybody’s on a clean slate. Maybe whoever was on the bottom of the barrel with the old coaching staff is getting a new shot this year. I know a lot of people are excited about that, they get to start fresh.”
Towles is battling with Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith in spring drills to be the Wildcats’ No. 1 quarterback, and each is getting a chance to run with the first team.
Whitlow, who played in 10 games and completed 87 of 161 passes for 801 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, is glad to get his chance to show off for coaches as well.
“It’s fun, it’s fun. You see some pretty good quarterbacks and are competing against them,” he said. “I’ve always been competitive, I’ve always had to compete for my job, so it’s fun.”
Smith is the incumbent, having won the starting job last fall. He started the Cats’ first four games and completed 68.7 percent of his passes and for 975 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
He said his ankle feels close to 100 percent this spring and said he’s ready to go “all out” every practice. But he admits is tough to have to win the job again.
“It definitely stinks. I wish I could have played all of last season and gotten us some more wins. But there’s always a competition, I’m just ready to compete,” he said. “Just work hard every day, get better every day. I have to work hard every day, and if I can do that, we’ll see what happens and hopefully I can win the spot. But as long as I’m progressing every day.”
One thing all three quarterbacks agreed on is that they have to get used to the fast-paced offense being installed by Brown, Kentucky’s offensive coordinator.
“We’re starting a lot quicker, we’re starting to quicken everything up. The first couple of days are always going to be rusty no matter who you are,” said Towles, who passed for 233 yards and a touchdown with an interception in five games. “But it’s starting to come together. We had a couple of plays today coach Brown was talking about where we actually looked like a football team.
“We’re getting there. We have a lot of work to do, but it’s March, our first game isn’t until August. But we’re looking really, really promising. It’s definitely easier to understand, but the execution doesn’t make it any easier. You’re still going against SEC defenses, it’s still going to be hard to make positive plays and complete passes. It’s coming a lot quicker.”
Smith said everything about the offense is faster, but he’s loving the potential.
“I like it a lot. It’s fast. That’s the best word to describe it, it’s really fast,” he said. “Everything, we even practice faster, we practice at a very high rate of speed. We even get a little break in between because we practice so fast.”
Whitlow started at the end of last season after Smith and Towles were lost to injuries, and he is hoping that experience will pay off as the spring progresses.
“I just tried to come out there and do my best. I kind of got thrown to the fire, and I think I got better as the season went on, so I think it’s the whole confidence thing,” he said. “Get that down and your body will take over.”