Before the annual University of Kentucky football alumni luncheon in Louisville last week, first-year offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson explained what he looks for when recruiting quarterbacks.
The word accurately was uttered four times during that explanation.
"You have to be able to throw the ball accurately," Dawson said. "Period. That's No. 1. ... You either have it or you don't."
UK fans can rest assured that Gunnar Hoak has it.
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Hoak — a 6-foot-4 prospect from Dublin, Ohio — committed to the Wildcats back in April, becoming the first quarterback to pledge to UK since the program hired Dawson to take over the offense.
A look at Hoak's game film from last season shows a kid who is comfortable in the pocket and more than competent at putting the ball where it needs to go — with several highlights of him hitting downfield receivers perfectly in stride.
Hoak completed more than 65 percent of his passes as a junior for more than 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns, averaging more than 15 yards per completion.
ESPN ranks him as a four-star quarterback and the No. 14 pocket passer in the class of 2016. Scout.com has him on the watch list for a possible bump to four-star status, and Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt liked him from the first look.
"When I saw him early on, I certainly recognized there were a lot of good tools there," Helmholdt told the Herald-Leader.
Dawson was also an early fan.
UK’s new offensive coordinator actually recruited Hoak while in the same position at West Virginia last fall. Hoak attended a game in Morgantown and stayed in touch with Dawson after he made the move to Lexington.
Austin Kendall emerged as UK's top quarterback option early in the 2016 recruiting cycle, but Hoak said as soon as it became clear that Kendall was leaning toward Oklahoma, the UK coaching staff got back in contact.
"And I just jumped at it," he said. "The quarterback situation — I know they didn't get one in that 2015 class, which shows I can get in there and have some early playing time, hopefully."
"(Dawson) definitely knows what he's doing, and I like that offense a lot. I've been to two camps with him this summer, and he's shown me a little bit of what their offense is. He'll be throwing it around, for sure."
While Helmholdt said he was impressed early with Hoak, the Rivals.com analyst had reservations about his most recent viewing in the spring, when he said the UK commitment's mechanics "had really gotten away from him." Helmholdt speculated that part of that could have been due to Hoak's time with his high school baseball team, and the player acknowledged the difficulty of switching between throwing a baseball one day and a football the next.
One takeaway from Hoak's time on the diamond is toughness, which he displayed during the team's home opener this past season. Hoak — playing right field — made a diving play on a foul ball and ended up sliding full speed into a brick wall. The result was a broken nose and fractured orbital bone, but he was back on the field a couple of weeks later.
While primarily known for his passing, Hoak has shown similar daring on the football field. He's not afraid to take off with the ball himself, and he has some pretty good moves in the open field.
"He's definitely a pocket passer, but he's an athletic kid on top of that," Helmholdt said. "Pro-style quarterback is somebody who mainly beats teams with their arms. It doesn't necessarily mean that all pro-style quarterbacks are Tom Brady and statues in the pocket.
"Gunnar Hoak — if he's flushed — he can make some things happen with his feet. He's a good athlete, no doubt about it."
Hoak was last in town for UK's Friday Night Blue Lights camp a couple of weeks ago and met with many of his fellow commitments in the class of 2016. He's well aware of the late defections that hurt UK's recruiting efforts during the last cycle, and he pointed out that group didn't have a quarterback — sometimes the glue that holds recruiting classes together — and this one does.
"They're all great guys," he said. "I see this class staying together, for sure. I think they're truly all in."
He'll be back in Lexington for the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, and it won't be too long before he's at UK for good.
Hoak said he's decided to graduate from high school early — he's taking a couple of online classes this fall to make that happen — so he can enroll at UK in January and join the team for spring practice.
"I think it'll help a lot, just to build that relationship with the quarterbacks there and obviously the other players and Coach Dawson. And just to get in the offense and learn."