Kentucky freshman quarterback Patrick Towles returned to the practice field on Tuesday and, after a 17-day layoff from a high ankle sprain, needed to shake off some rust.
"It's really his fourth day of work working with the varsity," UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "We forget he got hurt against Mississippi State, but that was really his first week of not running off cards on scout team.
"It was good to have him back out there and good to have him in the huddle making the calls. I like the way he handled the things at the line of scrimmage and all that, but it was pretty obvious he's rusty and needs work."
Towles had his right ankle rolled upon during a Mississippi State sack in the Oct. 6 loss to the Bulldogs. He had completed five of six passes for 71 yards and his first collegiate touchdown prior to the second-quarter injury. He practiced Tuesday with tape, an air cast and high-top cleats to help prevent further damage to the still-healing ankle.
Sanders said the biggest obstacle for Towles moving forward is taking things from the playbook, seeing how they unfold on the practice field, and executing against an SEC defense.
"I think he understands a little bit more but again understanding it on paper or in the meeting room or on film is still different than executing it on the field," Sanders said. "I do think he has put in a lot of effort into staying into it mentally while he's been hurt. I've tried to coach him just as hard while he's been hurt than while he was on the field. I do think he's farther along but still executing it on the field with the fast pace, we've got to work on that."
Sanders said the way UK ran the ball last week against Georgia could help all of its quarterbacks develop. The Cats posted a season-high 206 yards rushing against the Bulldogs in a 29-24 loss at Commonwealth Stadium.
"We were able to run it early, which I think gave our guys confidence," Sanders said. "We took a couple of shots at some play-action that didn't necessarily hit, but the defense saw we had them and then the score allowed us to stay with the running game more.
"If a team gets 14 or 21 ahead, it makes it much easier for them to play defense and much harder to play offense. The fact we were able to keep the game close and be in contention the whole way made the running game that much better."
The Wildcats travel to Missouri this weekend to face a Tiger defense ranked No. 41 nationally in total defense.
"They have a good front," Sanders said of Missouri. "They've got a lot of experience on defense, their linebackers, just reading their bios, seem like they've been there since the turn of the century almost. They've been there a long time and seen a lot of football and are good players."
Towles returns to practice
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