With Christmas already here, hopefully by now your wish lists are all filled out and your shopping has been taken care of. But to the advantage of your favorite SEC schools, they still have several months to tweak their lists and resolve their needs before the season opens. SEC County has chosen each team’s top needs for Christmas heading into the 2016 season, and for Kentucky it’s leadership at the quarterback position.
Before he was benched after 10 games as the team’s starter, junior quarterback Patrick Towles was the heartbeat of the Kentucky team. Of course his 14 interceptions to nine touchdowns were troubling as his play began to dwindle, but Towles was a vocal leader that the Wildcats seemed to count on. By the end of 2015, he had two years of experience at the starting position. He understood the other teams in the conference. He cemented himself as the sixth best passer in Kentucky history and earned the praise of coach Mark Stoops for the way he carried himself.
At the end of the year, when Stoops decided redshirt freshman Drew Barker would be the starter for the season’s final two games, it was always known that Towles would be there in the event things went amuck. In fact, when Barker struggled against Louisville in the season’s finale, Stoops brought Towles in to see if he could make something happen.
But in 2016, there will be no Patrick Towles.
Towles has decided to transfer, which leaves the quarterback load entirely on Barker, an upcoming redshirt sophomore who has never started a game against an SEC opponent and who has one touchdown pass to his name for his career. Until recently, he played a major back-seat role to the vocal Towles.
Barker can’t make up for his lack of experience. It’s simply something he and the Wildcats have to accept heading into 2016. But vocal leadership is something Barker can have — must have — heading into this next season.