By LARRY VAUGHT
Even though Stephen Johnson threw for 310 yards in last week’s win over New Mexico State after starter Drew Barker was injured, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops indicated today that Barker will be the starter on Saturday against South Carolina if he is healthy.
“He’s listed as the starter on the depth chart for a reason,” Stoops said Monday.
Stoops revealed that Barker had an MRI to get a closer look at his back and UK is consulting with a specialist. The coach said Barker had “lingering” back problems from this summer and some popped up again after the loss at Florida two weeks ago.
Stoops said “it wasn’t just one hit” that caused Barker’s issue but was rather a chronic problem.
The coach did say he anticipated Johnson being part of the game plan even if Barker is healthy.
Many assumed Johnson would be the starter after the struggles Barker had in the second half against Southern Mississippi and entire game at Florida. He had six turnovers in those six quarters and UK failed to score when he was in the game.
Barker has completed 18 of 36 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns and five interceptions this season.
Johnson is more of a dual-threat quarterback but Stoops said he told him to quit running the ball in the second half of last week’s 62-42 win to avoid an injury.
Cincinnati transfer Luke Wright is still listed as the No. 3 quarterback and played briefly last week to finish the game. However, Stoops said true freshman Gunnar Hoak will get more practice reps this week with Barker injured. The plan had been to redshirt Hoak.