UK Football

QB Drew Barker leaving Kentucky as a graduate transfer. What happens now?

Herald-Leader Staff Report

Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker has one season of eligiblity remaining, and he said Tuesday night that he’ll play it at a different school.
Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker has one season of eligiblity remaining, and he said Tuesday night that he’ll play it at a different school. aslitz@herald-leader.com

Drew Barker’s tumultuous University of Kentucky football career came to an end Tuesday night when the quarterback announced he will exercise his graduate transfer option and play out his fifth and final season of eligibility at a different school.

Barker’s move means Kentucky will enter the 2018 football season without a quarterback on its roster who has ever taken a snap in a Division I game.

Barker made the announcement on Twitter, thanking his coaches and teammates.

“Football has taken me places that I have never dreamed of and I’m excited to see where it takes me next,” Barker said on Twitter.

Kentucky’s roster for 2018 now includes four quarterbacks.

Senior starter Stephen Johnson has used up his eligibility. Junior backup Luke Wright decided to give up his final season and went through Senior Day activities in November.

Junior-college transfer Terry Wilson signed with the Wildcats in December and has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

He will be competing with sophomore-to-be Gunnar Hoak and redshirt freshmen Danny Clark and Walker Wood for the Wildcats’ starting quarterback job.

Had Barker remained at Kentucky next season, he would have been competing with a junior-college transfer in Wilson who turned down offers from Florida and Nebraska to pick UK.

As Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story wrote recently, “a high-profile, junior-college transfer QB does not pick a school unless he expects to win the starting job.”

Wilson’s arrival could have played a role in Barker’s departure but Barker did not make mention of the quarterback competition in his social media statement.

Barker was a four-star recruit in the class of 2014 out of Conner High School. He sat out the 2014 season as a redshirt, during which time he was involved in two off-the-field incidents that damaged his reputation. Barker and three other UK players were suspended one game and charged with disorderly conduct after an incident with an airsoft gun that shut down UK’s South Campus for several hours. That same school year, Barker was involved in a bar fight in Richmond and was later punched in the side of the head by an Eastern Kentucky University football player at an EKU dorm — an incident captured on video.

Barker saw limited action as a backup to Patrick Towles during the 2015 season, appearing in five games and making two starts. In 2016, Barker won Kentucky’s starting QB job but was knocked out with a back injury during the season’s third game. He underwent back surgery and missed the rest of the season. By the time Barker returned, he had been supplanted by junior-college transfer Stephen Johnson, who led the Wildcats to back-to-back bowl games in 2016 and 2017.

Kentucky football assistant head coach Eddie Gran reacts to Stephen Johnson’s performance at the Music City Bowl match against Northwestern in Nissan Stadium.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound Barker completed his UK career with 57 completions in 113 attempts for 747 yards, with five touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

QB contenders

Wilson is by far the most seasoned of the four remaining contenders for UK’s starting job.

Wilson is an Oklahoma native who signed with Oregon out of high school as a dual-threat QB. He redshirted in 2016, then transferred to Garden City Community College in Kansas after sophomore Justin Herbert won the Ducks’ starting quarterback job.

As a redshirt freshman this season at Garden City, the 6-3, 203-pound Wilson threw for 2,113 yards and 26 TDs. But he also threw 11 interceptions while completing 57.6 percent of his passes.

Hoak has yet to throw a pass in an official UK game but has been impressive in two spring-game outings. The 6-4, 206-pound product of Dublin, Ohio, has completed 20 of 29 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns combined in the two Blue-White Games.

The 6-2, 230-pound Clark originally committed to Ohio State before signing with Kentucky.

The 6-1, 181-pound Wood was a standout at Lafayette High School in Lexington but has been hampered by injuries.

Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story contributed to this article.

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