Lots of words were said about the quarterbacks after Kentucky’s annual Blue-White Spring Game.
Gunnar Hoak? Terry Wilson?
Perhaps the most important words came from the head coach when asked about making the decision about who will replace Stephen Johnson running the Cats’ offense next season.
“I’m not in any big hurry,” Stoops said Friday night with zero hint of urgency after the offense topped the defense 45-32 in a disjointed scrimmage.
It took a few series for either of the likely starters to get going. There were hints of strong play.
In the second half, Hoak used a nice pump fake to draw off two defenders and find Josh Ali for an 8-yard touchdown pass. The 6-foot-4 sophomore completed 14 of 25 passes for 121 yards.
Wilson had several pretty scrambles and showed a burst of speed on the turf at Kroger Field, including one roll out to the right where he found wideout Brett Slusher for a 24-yard pass.
“There’s no doubt that you can see Terry’s speed, that he can run,” quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw said afterward. “He was clocked faster than some of the receivers and some of the DBs in practices.”
If the game had been played differently, Wilson likely would’ve been credited with a touchdown run of his own, but quarterbacks weren’t tackled and a defender got a hand on Wilson in time.
The junior college transfer instead had to settle for connecting on 10 of 24 passes for 131 yards.
Neither won the job nor lost it on Friday night.
Neither has even played with a full complement of offensive weapons with key cogs including tight end C.J. Conrad and wideout Dorian Baker sitting out the spring with injuries. Even running back Benny Snell was used sparingly.
There is no timeline for when a decision on a starter will be made, Stoops said, adding that it would be unfair to even give one an edge before the start of fall camp.
“There’s been days when one has looked better than the other and vice versa,” Stoops said. “It’s just not fair for me to say that at this point because they’re — I’d be just throwing something at the wall.
“They both have done some good things, and both need improvement in certain areas.”
The ever-changing, swirling wind at Kroger Field made some of the downfield shots that coaches are eager to take more of this season fall flat.
Coaches had seen both Hoak and Wilson make a move as far as passes down the field the past few weeks, and Hinshaw was disappointed that the quarterbacks weren’t able to show more of that on Friday.
But there were plenty of things that left Hinshaw optimistic about the future.
“Both quarterbacks — Terry and Gunnar — were knowing where to go with the football,” he said. “They weren’t perfect … but we’ve gotten so much better from day one to day 15. It’s very exciting where we can move forward.”
Hinshaw’s parting words for the quarterbacks, even Danny Clark (8-for-13 for 77 yards) and Walker Wood (3-for-4 for 37 yards and a touchdown), will be to not worry about who starts and who doesn’t.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re named because you can get beat out by next week because everything is very close right now,” Hinshaw said he’s told all four quarterbacks. “So my job is to prepare all of them to play and to make sure we have a great product, whoever’s playing. … I believe we can win with the quarterbacks we have.”
‘Take the touchdown and go’
It looked like wideout Zy’Aire Hughes might have been a bit outside of the end zone on a ruled touchdown late in the scrimmage.
That didn’t matter one bit to the player who threw the pass, former Lafayette star Walker Wood: “I’ll take the touchdown and go, baby.”
Wood would’ve taken pretty much any result as long as he could be back on the field playing again after sitting out for nearly 18 months with injuries and surgeries.
“It was great,” he said of his four passes in the spring game on Friday night. “It was a blessing to be out there again playing football. It was my first close to live snaps since my senior year of high school.”
There’s been plenty of rust for Wood to knock off this spring as he’s worked his way back from the rehab room to the football field.
He’s still breaking in his throwing shoulder, which was surgically repaired. Just four or five days into fall camp in August, Wood realized something didn’t feel quite right. An MRI revealed a torn bicep, which doctors repaired.
“After that second shoulder surgery, it was hard to come back,” Wood said. “It was very frustrating. … I’m feeling a lot better, a lot closer to normal.”
There were moments in those closing minutes of the scrimmage on Friday that Hinshaw was able to see the Wood who made huge plays for the Generals.
“He’s been really nipping at trying to get out there,” Hinshaw said of Wood. “It was good to see him throw the ball with a little bit more zip than he had been, so that was good to see. He’s overcoming that shoulder injury.”
Wood and Hinshaw are hopeful that by the end of summer as the team goes into fall camp that the quarterback will be back in his comfort zone: making plays on the field.
“Tonight was really good for me,” Wood smiled. “I enjoyed it.”