Last season's starting quarterback at Kentucky will not be this season's starter, but that's the only certainty in a crowded race.
Jalen Whitlow started the most games during coach Mark Stoops' debut season in Lexington, but Whitlow elected to transfer a couple of weeks ago. Last year's backup, Maxwell Smith, missed this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery, leaving redshirt sophomore Patrick Towles, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips and early enrollee Drew Barker vying for the top spot.
"Patrick did some really good things in the spring and played well in the spring game, but I was also pleased with the other two," Stoops said this week. "I'm not quite ready to name a starter, but we feel very good about where we're at. We feel like we're improving at that position."
Towles is a former Parade All-American who became an afterthought last season, redshirting after spending the autumn fourth on the depth chart behind Whitlow, Smith and Phillips. The 6-foot-5, 236-pounder from Fort Thomas, Ky., started last Saturday's spring game and went 11-of-15 for 126 yards but was intercepted once.
Phillips, who enrolled early last year after arriving from Signal Mountain, actually became the backup last November but wasn't used so his redshirt season could be preserved. The 6-2, 222-pounder had the best game among Kentucky's quarterbacks last weekend, completing 10 of 17 passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
"Reese really did a good job," Stoops said. "Reese is a guy who our coaches and our players have a lot of confidence in, and that's a great compliment. He's a guy who we feel is always very steady, and at times throughout this spring he was the guy who was most consistent and would move the team the best.
"He has a good command of the offense, so Reese is still very much in the hunt. I really like the way he's playing, and he's a great kid. He's got a bright future."
In two spring games with the Wildcats, Phillips is 20-of-29 for 149 yards and three scores.
Barker was 7-of-19 for 74 yards and a touchdown last Saturday. The 6-3, 216-pounder from Burlington, Ky., was Rivals.com's No. 5 pro-style quarterback this past winter.
The three quarterbacks who competed this spring are of the pro-style variety. Whitlow was a dual-threat quarterback, passing for just 1,033 yards while rushing for 457 on a Wildcats team that went 2-10 overall and 0-8 in Southeastern Conference play for a second consecutive season.
Stoops asked Whitlow last month to move to receiver, but Whitlow is looking to play quarterback elsewhere.
"Ultimately we want to throw the football," Stoops told reporters after Whitlow's departure.
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