Mark Story

Kentucky Sports Mailbag: Who do the fans want to win the UK QB job?

Is junior-college transfer Terry Wilson the favorite of Kentucky Wildcats fans to emerge as UK's starting quarterback in 2018?
Is junior-college transfer Terry Wilson the favorite of Kentucky Wildcats fans to emerge as UK's starting quarterback in 2018?

We start this week's Kentucky Sports Mailbag with a UK football backer wondering who Wildcats fans favor in the battle to replace the graduated Stephen Johnson as the University of Kentucky's starting quarterback:

Mark's reply: I think there is a wrinkle in this year's Kentucky quarterback battle that makes this answer unusually tough to gauge.

Usually, when there is a QB competition to replace a graduated starter, supporters will throw in with the candidate who, based primarily on recruiting hype, most stirs the collective imagination of the fan base.

In the current UK quarterback battle in which redshirt sophomores Gunnar Hoak and Terry Wilson appear to be the top contenders, you would think Wilson is that player.

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops talks to the media after his team’s spring game on Friday night.

The former Oklahoma high school star initially signed with Oregon. After losing a 2017 spring practice battle with Justin Herbert to be the Ducks starting QB, Wilson transferred to Garden City Community College. There, he emerged as the No. 2-ranked junior college quarterback in the country for 2018 by 24/7 Sports.

The combination of Oregon in his background plus the recruiting hype Wilson built in junior college would, normally, make him the fan favorite to win the Kentucky job.

What makes me reluctant to say outright that Wilson is the fans' choice is that Hoak also has a profile well suited for the projection of fan-base optimism, too.

Gunnar Hoak.JPG
Many Kentucky fans have been intrigued by the potential of Gunnar Hoak based on how well he has passed the ball in his three appearances in the Blue-White Game. Alex Slitz

The Dublin, Ohio, product has never played in a real game since coming to UK.

However, because he entered college a semester early, he has already appeared in three Blue-White Games — and threw the ball well in all three.

So what about it Cats fans, who are you pulling for to be UK's starting QB in 2018?

Question Two (from email): You wrote in your (June 18th) column about the (UK) quarterbacks as if (the competition to start) is only between Hoak and Wilson. What about the freshmen?

Signed, QB Curious

Mark's reply: From his first news conference of spring practice, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops indicated that Hoak and Wilson were the two leading candidates to be Kentucky's starting quarterback in 2018.

Those two were also used as the top two QBs in UK's Blue-White spring game. Barring injuries, it seems likely one of those two will be taking the snaps when Kentucky opens its season against Central Michigan on Sept. 1.

So where does that leave redshirt freshmen quarterbacks Danny Clark and Walker Wood?

In an interview with a Birmingham, Ala., radio station last week, Stoops was asked who had the upper hand between Hoak and Wilson.

In his answer, Stoops mentioned Clark, too. "Another guy that was very productive in the spring," Stoops said of Clark.

Walker Wood
Former Lafayette star Walker Wood, a Kentucky redshirt freshman, will try to become the first quarterback from Lexington to start for UK since Shane Boyd of Henry Clay in 2004. Alex Slitz

The UK Coach did not mention Wood, the former Lafayette High School star, who has battled injuries since enrolling at Kentucky for the spring semester in 2017.

In the Blue-White Game, Wood turned in a brief but positive appearance. He completed three of four passes and hit Zy'Aire Hughes for an 18-yard touchdown.

By the way, the last product of Lexington high school football to start at quarterback for UK was Henry Clay alumnus Shane Boyd in 2004.

Mark's reply: Arguably the best wide receiver ever to play for Kentucky, Craig Yeast has expressed interest in the past about coaching the wideouts at his college alma mater.

In 2016, Yeast told me that when his former Kentucky teammate, Neal Brown, was hired by Mark Stoops as offensive coordinator in 2013, Yeast talked with Brown about possibly coming to UK as a coach.

"Would I like to coach someday at the college where I played? Sure," Yeast said in 2016. "I did talk to Neal about that because we are friends. But I never talked to (former UK coach) Joker Phillips or Mark Stoops, not one time, about coaching wide receivers at Kentucky. I have no idea whether I was ever under consideration, but I never had a formal interview."

Craig Yeast try again
Former Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver star Craig Yeast from his days as the head football coach at Bryan Station High School in Lexington. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

Yeast, now the offensive coordinator at NCAA Division III Franklin College in Indiana, was one of my favorite all-time UK athletes. So I understand why Kentucky fans have warm feelings toward the idea of his returning to the Wildcats as a coach.

However, as a longtime high school and small college coach, Yeast's professional background is atypical of the assistants that Stoops has hired to coach wide receivers at Kentucky.

Under Stoops, UK has employed three wide receivers coaches: Tommy Mainord (2013-15), Lamar Thomas (2016-17) and Michael Smith (2018-).

Mainord came to UK from the same position at Texas Tech, Thomas from Louisville and Smith from Arkansas.

Of course, Stoops ultimately dismissed both Mainord and Thomas. So maybe hiring a coach with an unconventional resume would not be that bad a move.

Question four (from email): About the (Edrick) Floreal replacement. Any timetable on a replacement? Any existing coaches getting consideration as viable candidates?

Signed, UK Track & Field Fan

Mark's reply: The scuttlebutt I've heard since now-former Kentucky track and field head coach Edrick Floreal departed for the same job at Texas is that 1.) UK was not caught off guard by the departure and is therefore ready to move forward; 2.) Kentucky is likely to pursue a current head coach as Floreal's replacement.

Edrick Floreal
Kentucky track and field head coach Edrick Floreal resigned to take the same position at the University of Texas. University of Kentucky Athletics

One name that has been kicking around in the rumor mill is Kansas Coach Stanley Redwine.

A former middle distance runner at Arkansas, Redwine led the Jayhawks women to the 2013 NCAA outdoor track and field championship.

Redwine seems to be well thought of at Kansas and he is 57, so I have no idea if he is at a stage in his career where he wants to move.

Mark Story: 859-231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory