One of the first questions when a player at the high-profile position of quarterback leaves a college program — like Kentucky’s Drew Barker did Tuesday night — is whether that program will immediately target someone new to take his place.
The Herald-Leader has been told that the Wildcats are unlikely to go after any other quarterbacks before next season, content to roll into the 2018 campaign with the unproven — but high upside — quartet of Terry Wilson, Gunnar Hoak, Danny Clark and Walker Wood.
Wilson — a junior-college transfer who started his career at Oregon — signed with the Cats last month, will enroll in classes this month and goes into spring practice as the presumed favorite to win the starting quarterback job for 2018.
His main competition is likely to be Hoak, who came to UK as part of the 2016 recruiting class and was ranked as the No. 40 pro-style QB nationally in that group, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
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Wilson and Hoak will both have three years to play three seasons for the Wildcats.
Clark and Wood were both part of the 2017 recruiting class, enrolled early last year, then sat out as redshirt players. They each have four seasons of eligibility.
The immediate options beyond that are thin with national signing day now less than five weeks away.
The only top 50, uncommitted quarterbacks in the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, are West Coast QB Tanner McKee, who visits Stanford next weekend and is expected to pick the Cardinal; and Alabama dual-threat QB James Foster, ranked as the No. 14 prospect nationally at that position.
Foster actually had UK among his final five schools before Wilson committed to the Cats, though Kentucky was seen as a long shot even then and he has since moved on to other schools. Louisiana State is the favorite on Foster’s Crystal Ball page, and Nebraska came in with a late scholarship offer this week.
Wilson is the No. 2 QB nationally in the 247Sports junior-college composite rankings, and it wouldn’t make much sense for the Cats to target a second juco quarterback with Wilson now in the fold and Hoak having already spent two seasons in the program.
There are no currently available transfers or graduate transfers that would be practical additions for UK.
The Cats have already started recruiting quarterbacks for the class of 2019 — Alabama’s Paul Tyson, Ohio’s Connor Bazelak and Florida’s Hayden Wolff are among the early scholarship offer recipients — and it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see UK ultimately try to add two QBs from that group.
Coach Mark Stoops has also recently mentioned a need for more immediate depth at other key positions, like offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and wide receiver.
“And there’s some big-time guys out there that we have a chance at,” Stoops said on the first day of the early signing period. “So I think getting the best players is most important. I really feel like we hit a lot of needs between last year’s group and some young guys we have in this year’s. I feel like we’re in pretty good position, but you’re always looking for the best players you can get.”
Kentucky has about four spots to fill in its 2018 recruiting class.