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Patrick Towles wins starting QB job at Kentucky

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This was hardly a surprise. The starting job at quarterback was his to lose entering the 2015 season. Despite some heated competition from the freshman, prior experience proved to be a difference maker at Kentucky. Patrick Towles will be the starting quarterback for the Wildcats, Mark Stoops announced Monday.

Towles beat out freshman Drew Barker, a prospect with loads of potential in the future for Kentucky. The competition appeared pretty even out of the spring, but Stoops will bank on experience at the college level in going with Towles.

As a sophomore in 2014, Towles led the Wildcats in passing with 2,718 yards and 14 touchdowns while completing 57.3 percent of his pass attempts. He was picked off nine times, but none of those interceptions came within the opponent’s 40-yard line (9 touchdowns, 0 interceptions thrown inside the opponent’s 40). He completed exactly half of his pass attempts in the same area of the field though, which leaves some room for improvement if Kentucky is going to pull an upset in SEC play this season.

Kentucky opens the 2015 season at home against Louisiana-Lafayette of the Sun Belt Conference. It is a game worthy of some upset alert recognition and is followed by SEC conference games against South Carolina, Florida and Missouri. If Kentucky gets off to a poor start and fails to produce on offense, Stoops may be pushed into a situation where he needs to make a chance and go with the younger arm before reaching a bowl game becomes an even more difficult uphill battle.

Nearly 30 percent of early entries weren’t selected in NFL draft

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Not surprisingly, some of the players who left eligibility on the table for an early shot at the pros were left without a chair when the draft music stopped Saturday.

By the deadline in mid-January, a total of 84 players with eligibility remaining filled out their paperwork to make themselves available for the 2015 NFL draft.  As noted by Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, 24 of those 84 players went undrafted as the seven-round event concluded yesterday evening.

While that’s 28.6 percent, it’s actually a better rate than a year ago.  In 2014, 36.7 percent (36 of 98) of the early entrants went undrafted.  That total of 98 last year was a record number of draft-eligible players who left with eligibility remaining, which prompted the NFL to change its protocol in an attempt to roll back the number of players leaving early.

Getting back to this year, 16 of the 24 who weren’t selected came from Power Five football programs.  TCU was the only school with two early entrants who weren’t picked (running back B.J. Catalon, safety Chris Hackett), while two of the players came from non-FCS levels.

It should be noted that most if not all of the players in this group will sign as an undrafted free agent.

Below is the complete list of those who went undrafted.

SS Durell Eskridge, Syracuse
CB Jacoby Glenn, UCF
FS Chris Hackett, TCU
WR DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
RB Trey Williams, Texas A&M
DE Deion Barnes, Penn State
TE Jean Sifrin, Massachusetts
DT David Irving, Iowa State
WR Deontay Greenberry, Houston
DT Ellis McCarthy, UCLA
RB B.J. Catalon, TCU
WR Chris Harper, California
LB Max Flores, Northern Colorado
RB Dee Hart, Colorado State
RB Braylon Heard, Kentucky
WR George Farmer, USC
WR Nigel King, Kansas
OT Patrick Miller, Auburn
WR Zach D’Orazio, Akron
WR Tacoi Sumler, Appalachian State
OG Tyler Moore, Florida
WR Jaquel Pitts, Trinity International
LS Easton Wahlstrom, Arizona State
OLB Darien Rankin, North Carolina

Ruptured Achilles sidelines UK QB Reese Phillips

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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?

Ex-UK QB Maxwell Smith may have early lead for SDSU starting job

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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.”

Kentucky’s second-leading rusher decides to enter the NFL draft

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As the Thursday’s deadline to declare for the the 2015 NFL draft looms, the number of underclassmen that made the decision to go pro continues to grow.

Kentucky running back Braylon Heard was a surprise addition to the list. The junior finished second on the team in 2014 with 73 carries for only 368 yards.

“I appreciate the hard work Braylon gave to the Kentucky program,” head Mark Stoops said in a statement released by the school. “He has been a model student-athlete and we wish him nothing but the best.”

The decision is somewhat confusing since Heard, who originally transferred from Nebraska, finished his career with an unimpressive 150 carries for 830 yards.

To put that number into context, Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott ran for 880 yards during the final four games of the 2014 season.

Heard is expected to graduate in the spring, though, and there is no better time for him to chase his dream of becoming a professional football player.