Stephen Johnson proves playing quarterback is about more than recruiting stars

Stephen Johnson (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

One day after four-star Georgia quarterback Jarren Williams decommitted from Kentucky, coach Mark Stoops had a chance to talk about quarterback Stephen Johnson.

After losing his first start at Alabama in 2016, Johnson went 6-4 as a starter last year. This season he is 7-3.

He came to UK as a junior college transfer who was not highly sought after. Kentucky went after him because Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips transferred leaving Drew Barker as the only quarterback on campus.

“I’ve been very pleased with just his poise and composure. He would be the first one to tell you he’s not perfect either. We left a few (plays) out there again (at Vanderbilt), but that’s to be expected. That’s a tough position to play,” Stoops said.

“Quarterback is a different deal. I think all of us armchair quarterbacks can sit there and look at things, and it’s pretty easy when you’re watching film or you’re watching TV, or watching the game live. But, when the bullets are flying and there is pressure and all the things that are going on and all the moving parts, it’s easier said than done. That’s why that position, until you get out there and get to see live action, you never know how guys are going to respond.”

That’s why star rankings mean something, but not everything when it comes to college football. Randall Cobb was not a four-star player. Neither was Danny Trevathan. Same for Jacob Tamme.

Certainly Johnson and current UK running back Benny Snell were not. That’s why even though Williams was highly touted, that did not guarantee success.

“Stephen really makes a lot of good decisions. He really has great poise back there, even the way he scrambles to buy time once in a while, and the way he scrambles to run once in a while,” Stoops said. “He’s making much better decisions with drop back pass and where to go with the football and when.”

Johnson has paid a price for his success. He’s been hit often and has played with injuries to his ankle, shoulder and more.

“He’s tough, as we know. We’ve talked about that. He’s been very durable and has been handling it very well. That’s not to say he’s not beat up, but you ask most quarterbacks in this league and they probably are,” Stoops said.

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