Shortly after Mark Stoops ended the suspense in the drama that has been the quarterback competition this summer, the coach was asked what kind of impact new starter Terry Wilson will have this season.
“That’s yet to be seen,” Kentucky’s head coach said of the junior-college transfer, who was named the starter when UK faces Central Michigan in the season opener on Saturday at Kroger Field.
While Wilson’s impact remains to be seen, the potential of a speedy, 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore was too hard to sideline.
“He’s a dynamic guy but we haven’t seen him full go because he has not been live since he’s been here,” Stoops said. “So, kind of interested to see how the year goes, myself.”
Without going into all the reasons that he went with Wilson, Stoops said he looked at everything in the competition between the transfer from Oklahoma City and sophomore Gunnar Hoak, including targets, accuracy, decision making, yards and leadership.
“Ultimately with all the things we looked at, we decided on Terry,” Stoops said on Monday. “We’re excited about Terry and what he’s going to do this week.”
Of all the factors, speed had to be a major one. The dual-threat quarterback has been clocked running as fast if not faster than some of his fastest Kentucky teammates.
“There’s no doubt that you can see Terry’s speed, that he can run,” quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw said after the Blue-White Spring Game. “He was clocked faster than some of the receivers and some of the DBs in practices.”
The head coach is ready to see Wilson once he shifts into a different gear and find out “how fast he can run when it’s in the open field.
“He’s definitely an explosive guy,” Stoops continued. “But it’s not about that. It wasn’t about just the legs. That’s always a piece of it but it’s about operating within the offense and you’ve heard me talk for a year now about being improved and trying to build on the passing game, as well.”
The Oklahoma City native played one season at Garden City Community College in Kansas after redshirting a year at Oregon. While at Garden City, Wilson threw for 2,133 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Wilson, who completed 57.6 percent of his passes, also ran for 518 yards and five scores.
Neither Hoak nor Wilson was a statistical standout for the Cats in the spring game in April, with Wilson completing 10 of 24 passes for 131 yards and one interception. Wilson also ran for 14 yards on five tries, including a 17-yard sprint.
Hoak connected on 14 of his 25 attempts for 121 yards and a score in the spring game.
Both were strong leaders during the offseason and had solid camps. Coaches had to make the difficult decision over the weekend, Stoops said.
On Friday after practice, Stoops brought the quarterbacks in and “just told them what I was thinking and when I was going to make that decision, just so they understood where they were at,” Stoops said.
“And I told them I would call them over the weekend and bring them back to the office and tell them face to face.”
Quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw has been reminding the players in the competition that in the last 10 years, he’s never had a season where just one signal caller made it through an entire season.
So Hoak needs to be ready, as does Danny Clark.
“You don’t know how these things are going to play out and I just encourage all of our players to keep on having a great team attitude,” Stoops said, noting that the season the job was Drew Barker’s was the season that he got injured.
Football is unpredictable, but he loves UK’s QB options.
“The quarterback room right now is incredible,” Stoops said. “I’m impressed with all those guys and I’d like to see them continue having that positive attitude.”
It’s possible that Kentucky will see both Wilson and Hoak in the opener on Saturday, but Stoops didn’t make any promises either way. He wants to give Wilson a chance to settle in.
“Both guys have earned the right to get the opportunity to play, but you understand and I understand and they understand that sometimes that’s not a possibility,” Stoops said, noting that he’s tried to be loyal to starting quarterbacks.
“They have not been on a short leash, and we’ve been very supportive of that until it gets to a point where we absolutely have to make a change or take another look. So I want to be loyal to the starting quarterback and give him every opportunity and not have him looking over his shoulder.”