Kentucky Wildcats coach Mark Stoops brought the team’s four-man quarterback competition to an end Monday morning, tweeting that redshirt sophomore Patrick Towles will be the Cats’ starter heading into the 2014 season.

Stoops’ tweet closed the book on a hotly contested competition dating back to Kentucky’s spring practice season in March and April, and the head coach addressed his decision with the media following Monday’s open practice in Lexington.

“Patrick has done a very good job. I have a lot of confidence in Patrick. He’s worked extremely hard,” Stoops told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “… The truth is he won the job. It was very close but he ended up being the winner.”

Stoops said he liked Towles’ size, and even credited him as being “sneaky fast” when running with the ball.

“He’s a big guy, he’s strong and he can make all the throws,” Stoops said of his 6-foot-5, 238-pound quarterback. “He’s really improved on his release. He’s much quicker getting rid of the ball and that improves his decision making.”

Towles beat out Drew Barker, Reese Phillips and Maxwell Smith for the starting job. When asked where his decision left the other three contenders regarding the backup role, Stoops begged the media “give me one day,” indicating he has not made a decision on the No. 2 quarterback.

He did say, however, former starter Maxwell Smith was at the back of the pack after missing all of spring practice and the early portion of fall camp recovering from shoulder surgery.

When asked whether naming Towles the starter meant Barker, a four-star true freshman, was destined to redshirt in 2014, Stoops showed no interest in giving an answer, explaining “I want Drew to keep on working and keep on battling.”

As for Towles, Stoops said he is looking for the Cats’ new starting quarterback to assume control of the offense now that he and his teammates know he’s the man under center. The head coach said he was impressed with the will and work ethic Towles showed to earn the starting job, and hopes it trickles down through the rest of the team.

“A lot of people, a year ago when he was told that he was not going to be in the mix, could have put their head down,” Stoops said of Towles’ journey to become the starting quarterback. “They could have quit, they could have transferred. Or they face it and get improvement. And he worked. And I’m proud of that. I like the fact that he just went to work to get better. That sends a good message to the rest of the team.”

Most of all, Stoops expressed relief after making a decision regarding his starting quarterback.

“I’m relieved, I think that’s fair to say, I’m glad to make this decision and move on,” Stoops said. “And I feel good about the timeline of it. I wasn’t comfortable about making the decision until now.”