LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Patrick Towles says he felt relieved after winning the competition to be Kentucky's starting quarterback. He says is "super excited" to get the opportunity that he has worked so hard to get.
The 6-foot-5, 238-pound redshirt sophomore was considered the favorite heading into camp, and he eventually beat out redshirt freshman Reese Phillips, freshman Drew Barker and junior Maxwell Smith. Towles will be under center for the Wildcats' Aug. 30 season opener against Tennessee-Martin.
Coach Mark Stoops' long-awaited announcement Monday culminated a frustrating journey for Towles, who arrived at Kentucky with high expectations in 2012 before falling off the radar last season and being redshirted.
Instead of giving up, Towles came back strong this spring after tweaking his mechanics and attitude.
"I was told things that I needed to get better at, I went out and I get better at them and now I'm here," the Fort Thomas native said Tuesday.
"My feet had to get better, my release had to change. I had to keep my head on straight and really, really go after this thing, and that's what I did."
While Towles' promotion answered the biggest question of Kentucky's fall camp will only be making his first career start against UT-Martin. He played five games as a freshman and completed 19 of 40 passes with a touchdown.
Towles' struggles to make the short throws and reads necessary to execute Kentucky's pass-heavy Air Raid scheme left him behind Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith on the depth chart last season.
"I wasn't happy on the sideline, but I didn't let my attitude try to affect anybody else's," Towles said. "Me sulking wasn't going to help any."
But that was then, and Towles' offseason work with private QB coach Donny Walker helped him win a tight competition over Phillips, the much-hyped Barker and Smith, who's recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. While Stoops expects Towles to endure growing pains, he believes that his QB's arm, size and quickness will help him execute the offense.
"I hope now that he has the keys, that he can drive the bus and be the leader that we need him to be," the coach said Monday.
So far, Towles' first two days running the first team offense has succeeded in allowing him to play more freely without worrying about making a mistake. Mindful that challenges lay ahead when Kentucky begins Southeastern Conference play, he's focused only on succeeding in the opener.
"This will be the first time I've been on the field since Tennessee (in 2012) and it's going to be a little different," Towles said, "but it's going to be fun."