In a UK football recruiting cycle that hasn’t lacked for quarterback drama, things got a whole lot more interesting for the Wildcats on Sunday.
Terry Wilson — one of the top junior college QBs in the country — announced his commitment to the Cats to finish off his weekend visit to Lexington, and he’ll be back in town for good in a few weeks as an early enrollee.
Shortly after that, the competition heats up.
Senior quarterback Stephen Johnson, who also came to UK from the juco ranks, has started most of the past two seasons for the Wildcats, but he’ll play his final college game later this month in the Music City Bowl.
Barker, a star recruit who won the starting job in 2016 before being sidelined for the season with a back injury, is the presumed favorite heading into the spring.
Wilson, who was also a star recruit coming out of high school, will be on UK’s campus in time to compete for the starting job during spring practice. And he’s ready to do just that.
“They’re talking about me playing right away,” Wilson told the Herald-Leader on Sunday. “I just have to come in, grind, and I have to take it. They’re not going to give anything to me. I’m definitely going to have to go out there and showcase what I can do. And they like what I can do, so I have to go out there and prove it.”
Wilson made it clear there that were no promises made during UK’s recruitment — Vince Marrow led that effort for the Cats — but Kentucky’s newest commitment said the coaches told him he would have every opportunity to win the starting QB job.
Wilson is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 2 junior college quarterback nationally and No. 25 overall juco prospect in the 2018 class. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound player completed 194 of 337 passes (57.6 percent) for 2,113 yards and 26 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 11 games at Garden City (Kan.) Community College this fall. He also ran for 518 yards and five touchdowns.
Wilson is listed as a dual-threat quarterback but describes himself as a pass-first QB who can make plays with his feet when necessary.
“My speed gets me out of a lot of situations,” he said.
For most of the 2018 cycle, four-star high school recruit Jarren Williams was the Cats’ quarterback of the future. Williams, however, ultimately decommitted from UK (twice) and is expected to sign with Miami next week.
The final decommitment from Williams last month forced UK’s coaches into scramble mode at the position, and Wilson emerged as the No. 1 target.
The Wildcats beat out Florida and Nebraska to land Wilson’s commitment, and he said Sunday that there’s no need for UK fans to worry about him looking around between now and junior college signing day next week. He’s finished taking visits.
“Oh yeah. I’m done. When I got here, I just automatically knew that this was the place I wanted to be,” Wilson said. “I tell you what, man. I was there at practice Saturday. I wanted to throw the pads on right there. I was pretty pumped up about that. I mean, I’m excited. I can’t wait.”
Wilson was the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the country, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, when he came out of high school in the class of 2016. He signed with Oregon and spent a redshirt year with the Ducks’ program, but sophomore Justin Herbert emerged as Oregon’s starting quarterback heading into the 2017 season, and that left Wilson with little chance of quality playing time in the near future.
He ended up transferring to Garden City, and he will have three years to play three seasons at Kentucky.
“It was a tough decision to leave Oregon,” Wilson said Sunday. “But I had to do what was best for me. And I feel like — making that move — it’s made me a tougher player, mentally. And once I got to Garden City, I just had to grow up. I started watching film more, getting some extra time on the field. I had to bet on myself to leave Oregon, and I’ve spent a lot of time with the football since.”
Wilson was looking for an opportunity to play right away at his next stop, and he’ll get that chance in Lexington.
He said the Cats already have the pieces in place to benefit next season’s starting quarterback, listing off the returning talent in the receiving corps, the experienced offensive line and, of course, another year of Benny Snell in the backfield.
It’ll be up to Wilson to get on the field with that group in 2018.
“It was just the right fit for me,” he said. “And me knowing that I have the opportunity to come in with guys around me — I don’t have to go to a rebuilding program. I can just go in and do what I do. It’s a big opportunity, so I had to take it and run with it.
“And I’m not going to look back.”