By GUY RAMSEY, UK Athletics
For the second time this spring, Kentucky took the field in Commonwealth Stadium for a scrimmage. For the second time this spring, Mark Stoops left Commonwealth Stadium pleased.
“I thought it was a very good scrimmage,” Stoops said. “I thought both sides showed some real progress. There’s always going to be some ups and downs, but it was a very energetic, very passionate scrimmage. Both sides did some good things. Certainly the defense improved a bit from last week.”
Kentucky’s first-team defense was challenged to respond after a lackluster scrimmage last Saturday. The Wildcats did, getting early stops to start the session on a breezy late morning and early afternoon.
“You gotta give some credit to the defense,” quarterback Drew Barker said. “Those DBs are really good. I feel like that’s going to help us a lot, wide receivers and quarterbacks and everything, because those DBs are looking really good. So gotta give some credit to them, but we started a little slow.”
That meant it was the offense’s turn to respond.
“Good things that happened,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. “We talked about at halftime, we kind of took a break, we said, ‘OK, that half’s gone. Now we’re going into the second half, what are we gonna do? Are we gonna worry about that or are we gonna recover?’ Came out, first offense went down and scored a touchdown.”
The first-team offense is led by Barker, the redshirt sophomore quarterback competing for the starting job with Stephen Johnson. The most encouraging part of his day was the fact that he spearheaded the offense’s bounce-back.
“I thought he was good,” Stoops said. “It was good today because he had some adversity early on, I thought. The defense had some stops and were really playing pretty good and he settled in and got more opportunities and then we ended up starting to move it a little bit.”
Barker was taking a cue from his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in doing so.
“Coach Gran, Coach (Darin) Hinshaw, they call it the white-paper mentality,” Barker said. “You just gotta flip the page to a new page, forget about the last play. We came out and, like I said, we faced a lot of adversity in the first couple drives, but we ended the scrimmage real well. So I was pleased with that.”
That’s a sign of a player who’s maturing rapidly entering his third college season.
“You just gotta take advantage of all the opportunities at hand,” Barker said. “I feel like extra film study, it’s really going to help me down the road. So anything I can do that’s going to benefit me coming into game day, I’m trying to take full advantage of it and do anything I can possibly that will help me.”