Walker Wood is having fun again.
The former Lafayette quarterback has never played a down for the University of Kentucky football team. Some of that is attributable to misfortune: Wood in his final high school game suffered a knee injury that required surgery, keeping him from being a full participant in his first spring semester. Last summer an MRI identified a torn bicep in his right arm, the one with which he throws, and which was already surgically repaired prior to his senior year of high school.
He’s getting more practice reps than ever before this spring. Wood got to throw four passes in last year’s Blue-White Spring Game, but this semester is the first time he’s felt completely like himself since arriving on campus in January 2017.
“It’s a lot better than those first two years where I spent most of my time in the training room with the trainers and stuff,” Wood said with a grin following Tuesday’s practice. “They did a great job and everything, but playing football’s a lot more fun.”
On UK’s the depth chart, Wood is the presumptive No. 3 at quarterback behind Terry Wilson, last year’s starter in all 13 games, and Gunnar Hoak, who played in five games last year as Wilson’s immediate backup. Danny Clark, No. 3 at QB as a redshirt freshman last season, announced his transfer in November, and two true freshmen — Amani Gilmore and Nik Scalzo — have not yet enrolled. Walk-on Kolbe Langhi is also available.
Head coach Mark Stoops following Saturday’s scrimmage said UK is planning as if Hoak will be part of its future, but he was uncertain of Hoak’s intentions following his May graduation, after which he could transfer and still have two years of playing eligibility.
Is Wood prepared to be UK’s No. 2 if that challenge is presented?
“Absolutely. I think all the guys in our room, and Coach (Darin) Hinshaw and Coach Freddie (Maggard) have done a great job,” Wood said. “They’re working with all of us every day to prepare us for whatever happens in any situation. So yeah, most definitely.”
Wood said his throwing motion and mechanics have improved drastically from a year ago.
“I kind of had to recreate the way I throw just cause my shoulder wasn’t the same as it was before,” Wood said. “I’ve put a lot of time and work into that and I think this spring I’ve showed glimpses of my arm strength and other things coming back, so I’m proud of that, but I gotta keep working.”
The biggest challenge this spring has been “getting back in the game,” as Wood put it. His body feels 100 percent, but his mind is something he’s still having to conquer; it’s harder for him to rein in his play-making instincts after sitting out so long.
“I want to be perfect on every rep, and that’s just not gonna happen, so I’ve been working throughout the spring just to calm down and let the plays come to me and make the routine plays, and the big plays will happen eventually,” Wood said. “I’m not thinking about my arm anymore or just thinking about anything, I’m just playing ball.”
Blue-White Spring Game
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Kroger Field
TV: SEC Network