By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — When Kentucky ended its spring practice, offensive coordinator Neal Brown was more than pleased with how quarterback Drew Barker performed.
The talented quarterback from Conner High School in northern Kentucky graduated in December so he could enroll at UK in January to go through sprng practice with quarterbacks Patrick Towles, Reese Phillips and Maxwell Smith.
“I think it’s still a work in progress. I think the things that he does right now that are hurting him is he’s got to understand — as a young guy this is the hardest thing to learn — he’s got to understand that we can punt on offense. They allow us to punt. Now, I would rather not, but they allow us to punt,” said Brown. “So if it’s not there, eat the ball, take a sack, find your running back. He had a couple plays today where he really should’ve gotten the ball down to his running back, so those things, just having patience, not thinking you have to make a big play every time.”
Brown said he likes the competitive spirit that Barker has, but notes that he has “got to harness it” in certain situations.
The offensive coordinator says Barker, and all the quarterbacks, has a “good understanding” of what they need to do during the summer months on their own.
“Now they’ve gotta take it on their own — now the good thing is with the new rules, we’re able to do some things without the ball, so in the summer, we’ll be able to do some fundamental things with them. They know what we’re looking for. They’ve got a ton of film from the spring that they can watch and I fully expect when we get back together the first week of practice in August, we’ll be a lot better. They’ll be a lot better,” he said.
Brown says Barker can use the dramatic improvement Towles made in the last year as a pattern for what he needs to do.
“His (Towles’) decision making is better. This time last year, he felt like he had to make huge plays all the time. Similar to things I was saying about Drew. He understands now, ‘OK, hey, if it’s not there, check the ball down. It’s OK to run. Scramble.’ He’s really nice athlete,” Brown said. “So he’s matured. He’s not making the big, negative plays. A year ago last year, in the spring game he made a couple big, negative plays, same thing when we got into fall camp. He’s doing less of that now.”