After the first couple of spring practice earlier this year, Nick Bawden was third in San Diego State’s quarterback pecking order. Exiting spring, he was at least fourth.
Now, as the Aztecs are about to embark on the start of summer camp, Bawden is off the quarterback depth chart completely.
Head coach Rocky Long confirmed to the San Diego Union-Tribune that, following the conclusion of spring practice, he gave Bawden a choice: switch positions or transfer somewhere else if he wanted to continue playing quarterback. The 6-3, 220-pound Bawden decided to take one for his current team and agreed to move to fullback/H-back moving forward.
While Long’s not really certain about the fullback part of the equation, he praised Bawden for his selflessness in making the move.
“There are very few of those guys left,” Long told the Union-Tribune. “You appreciate those guys. I don’t know if he can play fullback. He’s a good athlete; he weighs 230 (officially, 220) pounds. Just the attitude … ‘I want to be on this team. Tell me where I can play and I’ll do the best I can.’ That’s great stuff.”
Bawden began the spring behind Kentucky graduate transfer Maxwell Smith and Oregon transfer Jake Rodrigues. He left behind those two as well freshman Christian Chapman.
As a true freshman last season, Bawden started two games in place of the injured Quinn Kaehler. In those two games — one win, one loss — he completed 13 of 37 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran the ball 11 times for 43 yards.
It hasn’t been a very good last couple of months for Kentucky at the quarterback position.
In early January, Maxwell Smith announced he was transferring from UK, ultimately ending up at San Diego State. Three weeks later, Drew Barker, along with two Wildcat teammates, was allegedly involved in a bar dispute that ended with an Eastern Kentucky football player suffering from multiple facial fractures.
Now the football program has an injury at the position with which to deal. The mother of Reese Phillips announced on Facebook Wednesday that her son had ruptured his Achilles tendon and she was on her way to Lexington to be with him. The university subsequently confirmed that Phillips sustained the injury during team workouts earlier today.
Phillips will undergo surgery Thursday and won’t participate in spring practice, although there’s a chance he could be back for summer camp.
The injury and Smith’s transfer leaves the Wildcats painfully thin at quarterback, with just two scholarship players available this spring: Barker and last year’s starter, Patrick Towles. As for Barker’s potential legal predicament that could potentially sideline him for at least part of the spring?
It hasn’t taken Maxwell Smith very long to make a name for himself at his new workplace.
In January of this year, it was confirmed that the quarterback would be transferring from Kentucky to San Diego State to finish out his playing career. The grad transfer left the Wildcats in search of a place where he could contend for a starting job, and it appears he he may have just picked the right spot.
While the Aztecs have used just three of their allotted 15 spring practice sessions, the San Diego Union-Tribune writes that Smith has seemingly distanced himself from the other five competitors for the the starting spot. From the Union-Tribune:
With six guys competing, it’s like they come and go through a revolving door in drills, but there’s little question for me who’s looked the sharpest: Kentucky graduate transfer Maxwell Smith.
At 6-feet-4, Smith is the most imposing of the bunch and he’s shown the best arm strength and accuracy. Most impressive has been his targeting on outside curl routes by receivers, with Smith zipping the ball into spots where only his wideouts can catch it. He looks very poised and capable. I don’t yet have a strong read on his mobility, and that might be a concern given the issues with the offensive line (more on that later).
Also competing for the job is Oregon transfer Jake Rodrigues, although the paper stated that he hasn’t had the best start to the spring. That should be at least mildly concerning as Rodrigues has been in the offense for nearly a year, having left the Ducks for the Aztecs in May of last year.
The paper writes that “[o]ur standings after Week 1: Smith, [sophomore Christian] Chapman, [sophomore Nick] Bawden, Rodrigues, [JUCO transfer Adam] Wood and second-year walk-on Drew Anderson.”
As a freshman, quarterback Maxwell Smith appeared to be the future of Kentucky Wildcats football. After a change in coaching staffs and a continuous quarterback carousel, Smith won’t finish his career at Kentucky.
Instead, Smith will return to his home state and become a member of the San Diego State Aztecs, according to Jennifer Smith of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Maxwell Smith’s father confirmed Friday that his son will transfer.
“He loves, loves, loves, loves Kentucky with all of his heart; he is sad,” Carl Smith texted to Jennifer Smith. “He’s happy but sad.”
The quarterback’s career looked like it was going to take off during the 2012 campaign. After being named to the Freshmen All-SEC Team, Maxwell Smith started four games as a sophomore. During those four games, he completed 68.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns. His season came to a premature end, though, due to an ankle surgery.
Maxwell Smith was never able to recover the momentum he built as a young player in Lexington. He battled a shoulder injury this past year and never threw a pass for the Wildcats during the 2014 campaign.
As a graduate transfer, Maxwell Smith is eligible to play next season. He’ll provide an immediate starting option after Quinn Kaehler exhausted his eligibility.
No one knows exactly who will be directing San Diego State’s quarterbacks, though, after their position coach, Brian Sipe, was dismissed after the season, per the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Following up a strong performance in the spring game, quarterback Patrick Towles continued to make a statement in fall camp for the Kentucky Wildcats. On Monday, he was rewarded for his efforts by being named the starting quarterback to start the 2014 season in Lexington.
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops announced the news on Twitter.
Towles did not play for Kentucky last season with a redshirt, but did appear in five games as a true freshman in 2012. The former Mr. Football in the state of Kentucky and four-star recruit, according to Rivals, came to the Wildcats with some high expectations. After choosing Kentucky over offers from Arkansas, Cincinnati and Louisville, Towles mostly had to wait his turn to shine. That may have come in the spring game for the Wildcats, when Towles emerged as a strong candidate for the starting job this fall.
“I think you saw Patrick do some good things,” Stoops said after spring scrimmage. “Patrick is improved, you saw him a year ago and you see him now, you see the improvement and I’m proud of that.”
Towles had been floating on top of the depth chart this fall camp, so he was looking like the favorite for the starting gig. Towles beat out Maxwell Smith, Drew Barker and Reese Phillips for the starting job. Smith led the Wildcats in passing in 2013 with 975 yards and eight touchdowns after appearing in four games at the start of the season, and he was recovering from shoulder surgery. Barker is a four-star freshman joining the team this season. Phillips was a three-star recruit in Kentucky’s Class of 2013.
Kentucky will open the 2014 season at home against UT Martin on Saturday, August 30.