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By LARRY VAUGHT

He faced unrealistic expectations from many, changing defenses almost every week and scrutiny on every throw/play from University of Kentucky fans and media members. Yet Conner quarterback Drew Barker said he had a “great time” his senior season.

“I did not feel any nerves. I just played football,” said Barker, who signed his institutional financial aid agreement Thursday and will enroll at UK in January. “Obviously, there were a lot of eyes watching me, but on the field I was just playing. I think I got a lot better this year, too. I was leaps and bounds better from last year when my passing and accuracy and footwork. Even a quicker release.”

Barker’s father, Terry, knew there was a “lot of pressure” on his son because of his early commitment to UK and high national ranking.

“There was a lot of scrutiny on his statistics every week. It seemed every week people were attacking him (on social media) and saying this kid and that kid is better than you. People were always trying to measure him against other player’s performances,” Terry Barker said. “It wore him down at times, but he has a strong personality. He knew he was not a robot and could not have a great game every night.

“But I thought he handled it well. Everywhere he went, eyes were on him. The South Oldham game, he missed the whole week of practice for his grandmother’s funeral in Virginia and I did not think he had a bad game. We lost by two (points) and he was really criticized. Same with our playoff loss at Anderson County. But he stays pretty consistent. Not a lot of peaks and valleys with him. He had a good season.”

Good season? Barker completed 255 of 317 passes for 2,702 yards and 34 scores. He ran for 1,421 yards and nine scores. He ended his career completing 526 of 798 passes for 6,264 yards and 62 scores and ran for 3,931 yards and 51 touchdowns.

“If he ever did feel the pressure, it never showed,” Conner coach James Trosper said. “Everybody can be a critic. The last game he was 6-for-23 passing, but we had a lot of drops. But he does not get rattled. He excels under pressure. One of the best games he had was when (Kentucky) coach (Mark) Stoops and (offensive coordinator) Neal Brown were on the sideline. He had one of his best games against Scott, which only had one loss.

“He’s been at that national level for a long time. He did AAU basketball and played in front of 10,000 to 15,000 fans in Las Vegas. He’s been through fire. You can just look at his numbers and see how he handled the pressure. Just throw his stats up and it speaks for itself.

“He got a lot better this year, too. He understood schemes and coverages. Two years ago he rushed for more yards. He had a better idea of defensive trends and see how his passing/rushing stats flipped this year. He commanded the passing game more than the running game.”

Trosper said teams tried to give Conner “different looks every week” from what they had been using.

“We had to figure out what teams were giving us and what they were taking away,” Trosper said. “As much film as he watched, the tough part was showing up on Friday  night and seeing something different from what we had seen on film. But it was a great experience for him and will really help at the next level.”

Barker said he got used to linebackers “spying” on him to stop his runs and scrambling.

“Using a basketball reference, it was often like a box-and-one. Teams would contain everyone and somebody would always follow me,” Trosper said. “We had to adjust every week. And that will help me in college. I got the hang of what to do and did not let the changes bother me week to week.”

3 Responses to UK signee Drew Barker: “I did not feel any nerves. I just played football.”

  • John Herndon says:

    I saw Barker in his final game at Anderson. The 6-for-23 stat was so deceiving. He had several passes dropped, including a couple that should have gone for 6. The last pass of his high school career was one that was just a tad behind his receiver, but should have been caught. Was in his hands and bounced off. Anderson had a great defensive game plan and, for the most part, took Barker’s leading receiver away and the line pressured him enough to make him throw before the plays had developed.

    Still Barker nearly rallied his team to a win. I have seen him twice in high school and he has the tools to be successful in Brown’s offense.

  • Andy says:

    IMO the Qb competition could come down to Philips, Barker and Whitlow. Not sure about Towles. He seems like a mystery. I really thought he would have beat out Philips but I guess I was wrong there since the coaches listed him as 2nd on the depth chart. I am not sure if it is a mental thing or the system is not a good fit for him?

  • Old Cat says:

    We WILL have a freshman QB in 2014.

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