Stephen Johnson No. 1; could Gunnar Hoak be No. 2

Gunnar Hoak, second from left, could be pressed into action Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Gunnar Hoak, second from left, could be pressed into action Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Quarterback Drew Barker did not practice Tuesday because of his lingering back issues and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said Stephen Johnson will be the starter Saturday night against South Carolina.

“Stephen is be the guy and they’re still getting evaluated and still getting in stuff with Drew. That’s all we know right now. Right now, Stephen’s the guy,” Gran said.

Johnson played well in UK’s 62-42 win over New Mexico State after Barker went out after throwing an interception on the first series. Kentucky amassed almost 700 yards of offense with Johnson at quarterback.

But what if Johnson went down?

That would leave UK with Cincinnati transfer Luke Wright or true freshman Gunnar Hoak at quarterback. Wright played briefly last week while UK was hoping to redshirt Hoak.

“Right now, Gunnar is going right now and getting the backup work. Luke is ready to go, has done a great job, mentally especially. It’s really close between the two of them and so both of them got to be ready just like Landon Young was ready (at tackle), just like Benny Snell was ready (at running back). Those two have to be ready to come in and play,” Gran said.

Would Gran be comfortable burning Hoak’s redshirt season if he was needed in a game?

“I think sometimes it can happen in a game and sometimes when it happens right there immediately, you have to make those decisions, you have to already have talked about them. There’s a certain point where you say no and there’s a certain point where you say yes,” Gran said.

Gran would not totally rule out Barker being able to play Saturday. The sophomore quarterback is scheduled to have a MRI Wednesday.

“I know they’re still checking him and I know he’s got another meeting,” Gran said.

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  1. Hopefully Barker will be able to at least play back up if needed. Doesn’t sound like that is likely. Let’s just hope Johnson can duplicate another game like the last or just move the ball. This game will answer a lot of questions. Hope Hoak is able to Red shirt this year. GO CATS!!!!!

  2. Johnson impressed me last week. The jitters were gone after a couple series. Seemed to have no problem with the speed of the game. His demeanor showed maturity. Showed some solid decision making. And the best part … when opportunity knocked, he opened the door wide and embraced it. That is what winners do.

    GO CATS

  3. I am not ready to jump on the Johnson bandwagon just yet. The sample size is way too small right now, but it was really refreshing to see someone else having trouble defending a multiple threat QB for a change. If he performs well against a decent SEC defense like South Carolina, then we have a real QB battle shaping up. I am not ready to see the plug pulled on Barker this early.

    1. Not jumping on any bandwagon John. But the fact is this… Barker has averaged a turnover every 8 1/2 snaps. Johnson played an entire game without one turnover. Easy math brother. Don’t get me wrong… I like Barker… always have. But it lbooks to me like he needs more time. With the injury being described as chronic it’d be foolish not to bring Johnson into the picture. All that said… I think Johnson will do well against USC and then we can talk about bandwagons.

      1. I am not disagreeing with you, Norman. I just want to see Johnson perform well against an SEC defense (other than ours, of course). If the offense operates well under his control against South Carolina, then I would say that it is his ship to steer.

  4. UK had better have a back-up or two ready because if the QB runs with frequency, he is going to get hurt , especially with our O-line. At less than 185 lbs., Johnson’s frame is not going to take a lot of punishment. SC is far from a good team this year, but this isn’t the New Mexico State defense we are up against Saturday.

    1. I hear ya RJ. But don’t let his good legs fool you. This guy made his bones passing the ball. His ex-coach says he’s the best he’s had at reading defenses, picking up the blitz, throwing the long ball on the mark, has great touch and has an exceptional football IQ. Pretty sure Doug Williams taught this kid how to be a passer, not a runner.

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