When Terry Wilson, a former 4-star prospect and Oregon signee, committed to Kentucky in December, many reacted with the assumption that the Wildcats had found their next starting quarterback.
Five months later and with spring practice in the rearview mirror, Kentucky’s quarterback competition is anything but complete. Wilson split first-team reps with fellow sophomore Gunnar Hoak during spring practices, and it was Hoak who took the field for the first snap in the Blue-White game.
SEC Network analyst and former Auburn offensive lineman Cole Cubelic called Kentucky’s spring game, and he broke down the quarterback competition in a wide-ranging conversation with SEC Country.
“I think the obvious is what you see is what you get,” Cubelic said. “Gunnar’s gonna be a guy who gives you a little accuracy, somebody who maybe has a better grasp of the offense. He’s been around a little longer and understands the expectations. And I think he actually mirrors the skill set of Stephen Johnson a little bit more than Terry Wilson does. Now, Terry Wilson is gonna be more dynamic. He’s … gonna be more athletic, better on his feet, be able to do more in the run game. He probably could create more plays just for him when he’s in the lineup.”
Even though Wilson’s scrambling skills were mitigated by touch tackles in the spring game, his speed was evident. It’s the key advantage he has over Hoak, who’s not the most fleet of foot. But Hoak also has a key advantage over Wilson in that he’s been in offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s system for two years while at the same time Wilson bounced from Oregon to a year of junior college in Kansas.
Cubelic’s observation that Hoak better mirrors Stephen Johnson’s game is interesting. Hoak isn’t likely to match the 327 and 375 rushing yards that Johnson amassed in his junior and senior seasons, but Cubelic sees similarities in game management.
“I don’t really think Eddie Gran’s offense is one that is willing to sacrifice understanding what play to get in and intermediate accuracy just for athleticism,” Cubelic said. “His offense to me is a take-what-the-defense-gives-
“I think with the RPO game, the quality tight end you have, the run game that you’re gonna be able to lean on with a pretty good middle three on the offensive line, I would rather have someone — and I think Eddie would rather have someone — who can manage that offense, can see the right things, has a better understanding of where to go with the ball and when to go there with the ball than someone who’s a little more athletic. Now obviously depending on how the two progress during the summer could change that. But as for right now, I think Gunnar Hoak would probably be the better fit just because of what that offense did and what it’ll have around him.”
Neither Hoak nor Wilson has taken an FBS snap in the regular season. Hoak was 14 of 25 with 121 passing yards and a touchdown in the spring game. Wilson was 10 of 24 with 131 passing yards and 14 rushing yards. Gran has said he puts zero stock into the spring game, so nothing can be gleaned from those performances.
Cubelic wasn’t ready to call Hoak the favorite, saying just that his experience in the system is “invaluable.”
Perhaps one of the quarterbacks will separate himself from the other this summer, but don’t expect Mark Stoops and his staff to name a starter long before the season opener on Sept. 1.