For weeks, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has said he needs to consider changes if the Wildcats are going to snap what is now a five-game losing skid and salvage their season. On Monday, true to his word, Stoops made the biggest change of the year.
After 10 games, redshirt freshman Drew Barker is now listed as Kentucky’s starting quarterback on the depth chart, not junior Patrick Towles.
“I told him a long time ago, he needs to worry about himself and prepare to be the best quarterback he can get,” Stoops said. “And sooner or later — and I pointed to the stadium as we were meeting from over in my office — I said, ‘You’re gonna get this opportunity in here. And what you do with it is up to you.’ I told him yesterday, I said, I know it took a little longer than he anticipated to truly get the keys to the car, but he has them now. So let’s see what he can do with it. I’m excited to watch him play.”
Stoops opened up the competition last weekend after Kentucky fell 27-3 to UGA for its fourth straight loss. Towles had two interceptions and zero touchdowns that day with just 96 yards through the air.
Though Barker hasn’t had a ton of game experience — he made his collegiate debut at the end of an Oct. 24 blowout loss by Mississippi State — the redshirt freshman proved Saturday that he’s capable of competing at this level.
Barker came into the game with just more than 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter. A minute and 55 seconds later, he had marched the Wildcats down the field for their first touchdown against Vanderbilt. The first pass he threw, he completed for 42 yards. Later he’d throw a pick-six, but the good outweighed the bad in Stoops’ eyes.
“We just honestly felt like we wanted to see who you know, somebody can get hot and spark us,” Stoops said. “When we did that with Drew, he went in and did some good things. Like I said, it sparked us and gave us some life.
“Again, we’ve talked about this a long time with the quarterback situation. Drew’s going to get his opportunity. If he takes it and runs with it, then we’ll know from there. Don’t have an answer to your question about the following week. He’ll have that opportunity so we’ll see where he goes.”
Against Vanderbilt, Towles got the start before he and Barker began to split reps as the game ensued. For the season, Towles has nine touchdowns but a glaring 13 interceptions in 10 games. Barker has completed 13 of his 19 total passes with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“Drew’s gonna have — he’s not gonna have a short leash. He will have the opportunity to go out there and go through some ups and downs and play throughout the game,” Stoops said. “Whether Patrick gets in or not, I can’t answer that. I don’t know. We’ll see. He’ll prepare that way, that’s for sure.”