After Kentucky football’s practice Thursday, Drew Barker was asked about the fact he is the only returning quarterback with SEC experience and if because of that he felt like the starting position was his job to lose?
“I’m just going out every day like I’m the starter,” said the third-year sophomore out of Conner High School. “I’m sure everybody else is. That’s what you have to do. Last year when I was second-string, I was practicing every day like I was the starter. It’s just something you have to do if you’re with the ones, twos or threes. I just treat it every day like I’m the starter.”
“Good answer,” said offensive coordinator Eddie Gran as Barker finished his interview. “That’s the way you answer that question.”
There is no depth chart this spring, Gran told the media, just competition. There are no starters, or backups or anything set in stone. Four practices into spring drills, UK’s new offensive coordinator hasn’t even finished installing his entire offense yet.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“Let ’em compete,” Gran said.
Still, you’d have to think Barker has something of a head start, even if everything is new. The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder from Burlington started Kentucky’s final two games last season. Barker and walk-on Davis Mattingly are the only two holdovers from 2015. They’ve been joined by junior-college transfer Stephen Johnson, true freshman Gunnar Hoak and Cincinnati transfer Luke Wright.
Ah, but Barker is on his third offensive coordinator in as many seasons. When the quarterback graduated from high school early and arrived at spring practice in 2014, Neal Brown was the coordinator. Brown left to become head coach at Troy, however, and Shannon Dawson took over in 2015. Dawson was fired at the end of the season, however, and head coach Mark Stoops hired Gran away from Cincinnati. In turn, Gran brought along UC’s quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw.
“They’ve definitely brought a sense of urgency,” Barker said of the first few spring practices. “You’ve got to do things right to get on the field, running after the ball after plays. They’re really big on that. I think they’re building a pretty good culture.”
It’s pretty different because we’ve had two Air Raid coaches the past two years. This is more like a pro-style kind of offense. We’re still in shotgun, but it’s more like pro-style, more like pro concepts, pro terminology.
Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker on new offense
Is the offense different?
“It’s pretty different because we’ve had two Air Raid coaches the past two years,” Barker said. “This is more like a pro-style kind of offense. We’re still in shotgun, but it’s more like pro-style, more like pro concepts, pro terminology. So it definitely is different.”
There’s also more of it. It took Dawson three practices to install his scheme. UK will hold its fifth practice Saturday and Gran still isn’t done with his install.
“So you really got to go in and study your playbook and watch film,” Barker said. “I’ve been trying to do that as much as I can and I feel like it’s paying off so far.”
After Tuesday’s practice, Hinshaw talked about how he had gone back to the basics with his new pupils, drilling the quarterbacks on fundamentals, especially their footwork.
“Coach Hinshaw has definitely brought in a lot of new things from a footwork perspective,” Barker said Thursday. “We’re really working hard, busting our butt to get those down. I think it’s helping a lot. We can already see some improvement.”
UK’s quarterbacks had been taking big steps to set up in the pocket. Hinshaw wants smaller, shorter steps. That doesn’t necessarily mean that one quarterbacks coach is wrong and the other coach is right.
364Number of yards Drew Barker threw for last season, completing 35 of 70 passes
“Every coach is going to have different viewpoints,” Barker said. “(Hinshaw has) definitely brought in new stuff that I think is really going to help. If you probably look at 10 different coaches, they might all have 10 different things that they could say. The things he’s brought in have really helped me and everyone else, all the other quarterbacks.”
Right now, all the quarterbacks are in the same boat. Gone is Patrick Towles, who started 10 games last season but is now a grad transfer at Boston College. Gone is backup Reese Phillips, who transferred to Montana.
“Obviously, we had good friendships with Reese and Patrick,” Barker said Thursday. “But the new guys have really been a great addition. They’re good guys. I like all of them. We all hang out.”
Blue-White Spring Game
When: April 16 at noon
Where: Commonwealth Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Tickets: Free (available at Ticketmaster.com by calling 1-800-745-3000)