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By LARRY VAUGHT
After taking about one week off after Conner’s playoff loss, quarterback Drew Barker was back at work. One reason was to make sure he not only was ready to enroll at UK in mid-January, but also so he could showcase his skills in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Saturday in San Antonio.
“I had been going all summer and just needed a little break after our season ended,” Barker said. “But I had to get back to what I was doing for the bowl game and then I’ll be home about a week and then off to UK.”
Barker believes enrolling at UK along with four other high school players, including two receivers and one running back, is a huge advantage.
“It gives us an opportunity not only to learn the playbook and learn the system before everybody else, but it gives us a chance to work out with the players and get used to school and college in general,” Barker said. “It’s really a good opportunity for us. We had some other commits that actually wanted to come in early, too, but some high schools have restrictions or how the credits are set up didn’t let them. But I am looking forward to it, especially getting with the strength coaches.”
Barker already knew a lot of the players on the All-American Bowl rosters from elite camps he’s attended.
“I am looking forward to the competition,” Barker said of the game that will be on NBC Saturday. “There are guys I am looking forward to playing with and against and seeing again. It’s great to play with that level of talent. It will give me a taste of what college will be like.”
He says he has no “real concerns” about UK despite the team’s 2-10 record last season in Mark Stoops’ first year.
“Personally, I think I can always get better and I have to keep working to do what I can to help the team,” he said. “I am going out to California to work out this summer and I know I always have to work on my game to make me better.
“In high school I actually sat down and wrote down goals I wanted to achieve. I have not done that yet for Kentucky.”
Barker said basketball was actually his favorite sport growing up — he was also an elite high school basketball player before giving the sport up this season.
“Being a Kentucky kid, I loved basketball from an early age,” Barker said. “But I knew early I probably would not be playing basketball for Kentucky and that kind of bummed me out. I am a retired basketball player now except maybe for the Y or rec leagues. When I was little and playing on the high level AAU circuit, I realized I would not be good enough to play basketball at UK. When I was little, I did think I could play there just like most kids in Kentucky do. But it has worked out well.”
Barker has been instrumental in helping hold UK’s top 20 recruiting class together and expects the class to stay intact until national signing day in February.
“Guys want to get there and play. We all already knew what last season would be like. We didn’t expect five or six wins. That would have been great, but you have to look at the schedule they played. It was one of the toughest in the country,” Barker said. “But I don’t think anybody is wavering. I talk to all of them and will keep doing that even when I am at UK. That’s one thing I won’t quit doing.”