By LARRY VAUGHT
Two things that stood out to Kentucky coach Mark Stoops about the way quarterback Stephen Johnson played in his first big opportunity last week were his poise and his accuracy.
He threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in the win over New Mexico State and will make his first start at quarterback against South Carolina Saturday night with Drew Barker out for an unspecified amount of time with a back injury.
Johnson’s threat to run adds a new dimension to the UK offense.
“There’s no doubt it helps. Even if it’s just somebody on the backside just lingering around a little more, then you can get a few more yards sometimes instead of the overlappers all the time,” Stoops said.
The Kentucky coach says coaches Eddie Gran and Darrin Hinshaw have a “lot of offense to pull from” that works for both Barker and Johnson.
“What we’re going to feature each week depends on what you’re going to see and where we go and how much we can handle week to week. We talked about it last week as a team, being relatively simple on both sides of the ball to be able to execute better. Offensively, it won’t be much different, no,” Stoops said.
Stoops limited how much Johnson could run late in last week’s win to protect him. He’ll be backed up against South Carolina by freshman Gunnar Hoak.
“We’ve got to be careful with him and be smart,” Stoops said.
On if he tells Gran no more Johnson run or Johnson himself:
That will have to change against South Carolina. Kentucky cannot afford to save anything in a game it desperately needs to win to try and save its season.
“We have to win, we have to play. We have to do whatever gives us the best opportunity to win football games. … Ever heard the saying scared money never wins? So same thing here,” Stoops said.