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Kentucky Football: The Case for Drew Barker...and It's Not What You Think

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Kentucky is going into a must-win situation in Nashville. It may seem crazy to give the redshirt freshman the reins to the program now, but we should.

PHOTO COURTESY: UK ATHLETICS // REDSHIRT FRESHMAN QUARTERBACK DREW BARKER (7) AT UK'S 2014 SPRING GAME

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson told reporters yesterday that UK has a plan at QB for Saturday, though he would not go into any detail.

When asked when he will know who the starter will be against the Commodores, Dawson replied:

"Yeah, I know.  You want to know?  We're evaluating it through the week.  We got a plan, put it that way, and we'll stick to the plan.

"I think it's the right one, I think it's a good one.  We've got one more practice this week and obviously we'll evaluate that one, but we got a plan."

I have a theory about the plan' and I would be willing to bet money it is one that involves Patrick Towles starting the game with a ‘shorter than the UGA game leash'.  I think this is a bad move for UK for several reasons.

One of those reasons is that is not fair to Towles to send him out against a top 20 defense knowing he is virtually destined to be pulled from the game.  Some quarterbacks would rise to this challenge and actually step up their game. Towles is not that kind of guy; he does not get too up or too down.

Normally, being stoic is a good trait, and if Towles were surrounded by a lot more talent, it would be a great trait for this team.  The problem for Towles is that the UK program needs a leader that people can follow, at least until the depth chart is filled with SEC talent 2 and 3 deep.

I am 100% sure that Towles' teammates like and respect him and I am equally certain that Towles' teammates would LOVE for him to succeed and be the next great quarterback at UK.  The problem he has, I think, is that they do not follow him, because he does not lead them.

Do not take that the wrong way.  I am not bashing Towles.  Not everyone is a leader; in fact, very few people are leaders.  I am confident that if Towles played for a top-10 team and there were leaders all over the field, he could just allow his God-given talent to take over.  He obviously does not have that luxury in Lexington.

Mark Stoops is the leader of this program, yet he admitted we went to Georgia not thinking we could win.  The same reeling Georgia team that had not scored an offensive TD in 10 quarters.  How is that possible when even the most frustrated UK fan thought we had a chance to win?

This is not a player problem, this is a leadership problem, and it starts at the top.  For our players to not think they could win against that team is an epic failure of leadership.  As Coach Brooks would say, that is a total systems failure, and it played out on the field, as well as in the locker room.

THE CASE FOR DREW BARKER

I have to preface the coming opinions with this: I LIKE Patrick Towles.  I would love for Towles to be the face of this program.  By all accounts, he is a fantastic kid.  I have had a few interactions with him and there is likely nobody more professional, courteous, or genuine on the team.  He has more upside talent than most quarterbacks in the conference and could very well be on an NFL roster for years.  Having said that, he is no longer the guy for this team, in my opinion.

I think Drew Barker should line up under center on Saturday and barring a catastrophic performance (worse than 8-21, 96 yards and 2 picks for a QB rating of 4.4) or injury, he should be the guy going forward.  The reason I feel this way is not because I think Drew Barker will flip a switch and become Tim Couch.  I do not think that at all; in fact, he may struggle.  I am also not sure Barker is a leader of men.  That is yet to be determined.  I also know we have  a lot more issues than the quarterback, but it is the head of the body.

The reason I think it is time to hand the reins to Barker is followership, followership that would hopefully lead to leadership.  If you look at the current depth chart, there are 24 players listed in starting or backup roles, sans the QB position.

EIGHTEEN of those 24 players are either sophomores or younger.  That means 75% of the offense that gets snaps was likely influenced, in varying degrees, to come to UK by Drew Barker.

DEPTH

This was a moot point last year because Barker was redshirting.  It was also a moot point this summer and fall because Towles legitimately beat Barker for the job.  If I am one of those younger players who were influenced by Barker to come and be a part of something special, I am unfazed because the bigger picture is to win games and be a contributor.

Fast forward to today and you have been embarrassed the past three weeks and have not won a game in a month and a half.  You are frustrated and you want it to change.  Towles has not played well for more than one consecutive half all season.  Fingers start being pointed and locker room issues manifest themselves.

Coach Stoops has put himself in this situation too.  Had he stuck to his own words and gotten Barker meaningful minutes (he has yet to play in any no-win situations by the way) by now, we would have a better idea of what we had in Barker.

It either would have been clear that we ride "Towles or bust" this season or we would already have Barker learning to be a leader and likely have no locker room issues.  Either of those scenarios is better than what we are experiencing now.

There is a chance I am way off base here.  It would not be the first time or the last.  However, Albert Einstein's theory of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting a different result.  To this point, our staff seems hell-bent on disproving that theory.