Yet Highlands coach Dale Mueller thinks 6-5, 230-pound Patrick Towles actually could even better than most fans — including those who will see him play Friday at Boyle County — believe.
"I would like to think fans are going to see a player who is really playing better than what they have heard," said Mueller. "He has improved about 10 years worth in the last year. He's had the best year from a guy I?have ever seen.
"He grew up a lot after his freshman year and has really been filling into his body. Last year he started to learn how to take advantage of his great athleticism. He always had a strong arum, but now he has an absolute cannon. His accuracy has improved. He's gone from a high school kid to a man. Yet he is still humble, nice, polite. He still really cares about his teammates."
Friday's game is the state's opening weekend marquee game matching Boyle, the two-time defending Class AAAA state champion with a 30-game win streak, against visiting Highlands, the two-time defending Class AAAAA champion that is dropping to Class AAAA this year.
This will clearly put the central Kentucky spotlight on Towles, who was one of the first players to commit to UK's 2012 recruiting class. Maybe that's because he understood how quickly things could change even though he threw for 2,471 yards and 21 touchdowns last year and ran for 880 yards and 18 scores — he ran for five in the first half of the state title win over Christian County.
"As a freshman he was an awkward, gangly guy. He was not even the starting quarterback on our freshman team," Mueller said. "He went into spring practice fourth on our depth chart at quarterback and came out of spring third. He made great strides by the end of his sophomore summer, played well in JV games and after our third game he made No. 2 quarterback.
‘Our starting quarterback was hurt in a nationally televised game and he became the starter. We had Austin Collinsworth (who is now at Notre Dame) at running back and did not expect Patrick to win game, but he still threw for over 1,000 yards with no interceptions. Last year he was the key to our offense."
Look for his numbers to be even better this year if Mueller, who has won nine state titles, is right.
"This year our offense is really expanded. We were lucky to get (former Bengals receiver and NFL TV analyst) Cris Collinsworth as our passing game coordinator and he's working with our receivers and Patrick. He's really developed all of them and now Patrick controls the game with his passing," Mueller said.