Kentucky will be without quarterback Drew Barker for “significant time” as he recovers from a back injury, Coach Mark Stoops confirmed on Wednesday after practice.
“He has an injury that does not require surgery at this point in time, and he will be out for a significant amount of time,” Stoops said. “I have no idea how long that’ll be.”
The news came after UK, Barker and his family consulted with a specialist about a back injury likely suffered at Florida and made worse on a collision in the opening series against New Mexico State.
It will be at least three weeks before there is another evaluation of the injury, adding that it was impossible to predict whether Barker will “be able to come back and play this year or not.”
The timetable would sideline Barker for Saturday’s home game vs. South Carolina, for the Oct. 1 trip to Alabama, and for the Oct. 8 home game against Vanderbilt. Kentucky is off the weekend of Oct. 15 and hosts Mississippi State on Oct. 22.
The 6-foot-3 redshirt sophomore from Burlington had started all three games this season, completing 50 percent of his passes for 334 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions.
His head coach hinted that some of Barker’s misfires likely were a direct result of his nagging injury.
“It’s a legitimate, serious injury,” Stoops said. “He’s not just a quarterback who took a shot. I don’t know if that gave him the injury, but it certainly bothered him after that and probably was a big part of the reason why he played the way he did. He certainly showed all signs of playing like he did in Game 1.”
True freshman Gunnar Hoak has been getting the No. 2 reps at practice, and Cincinnati transfer Luke Wright is also an option.
“Gunnar is preparing to play,” Stoops said of the player originally slated to redshirt this season. “Gunnar will prepare to be the backup quarterback. If Stephen goes down, Gunnar will go in.”
Barker lasted just three plays against New Mexico State before being carted off the field. Johnson had a strong showing, completing 77 percent of his passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 10 rushes for 51 yards.
“He went out there and just operated the offense and was very comfortable and very poised and efficient,” Stoops said.
On Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference teleconference, Stoops said he was grateful Kentucky had landed Johnson when it did.
“I’m sure glad we have him right now, you know with Drew being banged up, we would not be in a good situation,” Stoops said, noting UK’s quarterback cupboard was all but bare after Patrick Towles transferred to Boston College.
As for Barker, who will be able to attend practices while he’s out, Stoops said the quarterback was disappointed.
“He’s worked extremely hard,” Stoops said. “I really feel for him because he’s put a lot of time and energy and work to get in this position. So that’s tough on him.”
South Carolina at Kentucky
7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)