UK Football

Is UK’s QB job up for grabs? Coaches ‘trying to spark some fire’ under Wilson.

Benny Snell can confirm that he’s not one of the “several quarterbacks” that his Kentucky coach said would play in the Missouri game on Saturday.

“I’m not one of them. I can say that,” the junior running back laughed. “I’m the fallback guy. If hell’s breaking loose and they can’t get it done, then I’m here. They know that.”

UK’s offensive coordinators and a few players tried to offer a little bit of clarity on the No. 12 Cats’ quarterback situation just 24 hours after Coach Mark Stoops said on his coach’s call-in show that he’s pondering the use of multiple signal callers.

“You have to give the other guys an opportunity,” Stoops said Monday night. “We’re going to work them hard and we have the past couple weeks in practice, and I anticipate playing several quarterbacks this week.”

Apparently Kentucky had some plans to put in other quarterbacks a week ago against Vanderbilt “and then like knuckleheads we turned it over twice,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran explained. “That changed everything, and the weather had a little bit to do with it.”

Both Gran and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw said the plan is to give Terry Wilson the starting snaps and then go from there. Neither committed to how many snaps other quarterbacks might get or when, or even if they would.

Does this mean there will be a shorter leash on Wilson, who has struggled for various reasons against good defenses the past two or three games?

“I don’t think of it like that,” Hinshaw said. “I think of it as ‘Terry, you’re going to take the first snap. Go take the bull by the horns and go out there and go play like Terry Wilson’s capable of playing.’

“It’s very simple and then that’s it, then the other guys get ready to play. And then we’re going to go over the game plan individually with all of them and what they have in what situation.”

The “go play like Terry Wilson’s capable of playing” seems to be the sticking point the past couple weeks. When the sophomore quarterback goes back and watches himself on tape in the win at Florida and then takes a look at tape of the past two games, he sees a different player.

“I had more fire in me,” Wilson said. “That’s what I need to get back in me. But the coaches are doing a good job on trying to spark some fire under my butt so I can keep going. We’re 6-1. Just trying to do anything we can do to win.”

But he does notice a difference. “I had more juice,” said Wilson, who has completed 78 of 122 passes for 721 yards and four touchdowns with five picks. “I was just out there playing ball.”

Wilson conceded that the early turnovers, a fumble after a long run and a lateral pass — that wasn’t supposed to be a lateral — that got picked up by the Vanderbilt defense, hurt him mentally.

He also was asked if he’d hit the proverbial wall that newcomers talk about, Wilson said: “Yeah, just a little bit. I’ve gotta bounce off of it.”

Mostly coaches are hoping he can bounce back from these past few weeks.

Both Stoops and the offensive coaches made reference to Wilson “not pulling the pin” on some plays recently. Are there passes the sophomore is supposed to throw but doesn’t?

“There was a couple he should be making and he didn’t throw it,” Hinshaw confirmed. “We go back, we watch the film, we go, ‘Why didn’t you throw it?’ And then we correct it and move on from there.”

Wilson tried to describe what’s happening on those plays.

“Just gotta trust it. Like I said before, I can’t second guess,” said Wilson, who completed just three of his nine attempts for 18 yards and a touchdown versus Vandy. “I just gotta go out there and let it rip. I haven’t been doing that. I gotta get back on it and get back in my groove and just let it go.”

But where does that leave the “several quarterbacks” scenario?

Is the top quarterback spot up for grabs again?

“I’m not sure. I know that we’re competing,” Wilson said. “We’ve always battled, as soon as I got here. But I haven’t got told anything about a quarterback battle.”

Kentucky’s been preparing to play Hoak and Clark all season long and they look ready to go, said Gran, who has the worst passing offense in the league and among the worst in the country, averaging an anemic 127.3 yards a game.Like Coach alluded to, sometimes you’ve got to make a change. Terry is still our starting quarterback, but we’ve got two more that are ready to go.”

There’s been a renewed excitement in practice from both Hoak and Clark recently.

“They’ve got a sense of urgency about them,” Gran said. “Gunnar, I think, knows this offense like the back of his hand. I really believe that. Danny, I don’t think is quite as far along as Gunnar, but he’s working every day to get better.”

Ultimately it sounds like the decision is up to Stoops whether “several quarterbacks” will play against the Tigers — the Southeastern Conference’s worst passing defense — on Saturday.

“If it’s not right and it’s not going well, then we’re prepared to make a change,” Gran explained. “I think you have to, and then you give the guys a chance to compete every day. (We’ll) see how Terry reacts and we’ll move forward.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader