UK Football

With one backup QB gone and another mulling transfer, what can UK football do?

Gunnar Hoak, a backup quarterback at UK, entered the NCAA transfer portal on Tuesday.
Gunnar Hoak, a backup quarterback at UK, entered the NCAA transfer portal on Tuesday.

University of Kentucky quarterback Gunnar Hoak announced his desire to explore a transfer from the school Tuesday morning, but left open the possibility of remaining at UK.

Hoak, who will graduate in May, revealed on Twitter that he’s decided to put his name in the NCAA transfer portal.

“I would like to thank Coach Stoops and the UK staff for understanding that I need to see if there are any other options for me at this time in my career,” Hoak wrote.

Hoak would have two years of eligibility as a graduate transfer. He has played in five total games in his career, all last season, completing 13 of 26 pass attempts for 167 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

If Hoak lands elsewhere it would leave UK with Terry Wilson as its only scholarship quarterback who’s played in a college game. Walker Wood, a sophomore, has been in the program two seasons (he redshirted in 2017) but has not yet seen the field. Danny Clark, who played in two games last season as a redshirt freshman, announced his transfer in November; he in February signed with Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss.

Two scholarship freshmen, Amani Gilmore and Nik Scalzo, are inbound but did not participate in spring practice. Kolbe Langhi, a sophomore walk-on out of Christian County, is also on the Wildcats’ roster.

UK head coach Mark Stoops praised Hoak throughout the spring but acknowledged that there was uncertainty surrounding his place in the program. Stoops during a pre-scheduled news conference to talk about the NFL Draft was asked Tuesday about Hoak’s announcement, and what it could mean for the quarterback position.

“Obviously we get thin, with Danny moving on,” Stoops said. “We’re not uncommon to that. Unfortunately it’s part of this situation right now with college football and college athletics. We have to deal with it.”

Hoak spoke with his head coach Monday. Stoops understands Hoak’s desire to get on the field and contribute.

“It’s not a done deal that he’s gonna go somewhere else,” Stoops said. “I think he’s gonna look at it and just check his options, and I told him that we would have another discussion about it at a later time. We’ll see where that goes. I just want to be supportive of him and his decision, but it does put us in a situation where we’re you’re a little bit thin.”

Wood “is playing the best he’s played,” Stoops said, after getting 100 percent healthy for the first time since arriving at UK. Stoops isn’t sure if Scalzo, who tore an ACL late last November, will be ready to play right away.

“If you know anything about Nik, you know he’s gonna say he’s ready, just like Walker,” Stoops said with a grin. “Those guys will play with an ACL injury, that’s how tough both of ’em are. But obviously we’ll make sure he’s ready to go and he will not play until our trainers tell him he is. But I know he’s working his tail off and seems like he’s gonna be ready.”

It’s possible UK could also look to the transfer portal itself if Hoak ultimately leaves. Among the notable graduate transfers with immediate eligibility who haven’t chosen a new school are Tommy Stevens, a senior backup to Trace McSorley last year at Penn State, and Texas Tech’s McClane Carter, who began last season as the Red Raiders’ starter.

The transfer portal — which the NCAA instituted in 2018 to help Division I athletes have more control over their futures — has “definitely changed things,” Stoops said, but he didn’t express disdain for it, as some in his peer group — including Penn State’s James Franklin and Florida Atlantic’s Lane Kiffin — recently have.

“It’s different, and we’re working our way through it,” Stoops said. “I don’t think you can ever pigeon hole something into saying it’s right or wrong, because there are a lot of extenuating circumstances that we all need to be understanding to, and what’s best for each individual. I always try to look at it that way. ... It’s not black and white. You just have to deal with each situation individually.”

Ticket renewals

It turns out winning 10 games and playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game has its perks.

The University of Kentucky announced Tuesday that its season-ticket renewals as of April 12 — the priority renewal deadline — were at 90 percent, up from a 79-percent rate in 2018. UK has sold about 3,000 new season-ticket packages this year, helping to already bring the current season tickets sales total to 98 percent of last year’s final total.

Season-ticket packages are still available at The Kentucky Football Pocket Pass — a mobile-only season ticket option with variable seating, but for a reduced price — is also available, as are four-game flex options.

Single-game tickets for UK’s eight home games will be available in the summer.