LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mark Stoops was reluctant to say the words all season after Drew Barker injured his back in Week 3, but the coach confirmed Thursday that his former starting quarterback will undergo season ending back surgery.
“We’ve exhausted all treatment that doesn’t involve surgery and it has not improved to the level our doctors are comfortable with,” Stoops said.
The surgery is scheduled during the week of Thanksgiving. Stoops wouldn’t get into the specifics of the injury.
Barker’s back problems were described by Stoops as “chronic” and the coach said at the time that Barker’s exit after the first series against New Mexico State wasn’t the result of one hit. Barker wasn’t tackled on what would become his final pass of the season, an interception ending Kentucky’s first possession eight weeks ago.
Stephen Johnson has filled in as Kentucky’s starter since Barker’s departure. The junior college transfer has the Wildcats one win away from their first bowl bid since 2010.
Stoops said Barker be back “in some capacity” for spring ball if everything goes right.
Barker is unlikely to be granted a medical redshirt. He redshirted under ordinary circumstances his freshman year and medical redshirts for a potential sixth year only apply to players who suffered two season ending injuries.
Kentucky plays Tennessee at noon ET Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn.