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Patience and Cautious Optimism Should Follow Drew Barker’s Commitment



I don’t mean to be a Nattering Nabob of Negativism (h/t John Clay), but I am only cautiously optimistic about Drew Barker’s commitment to Kentucky. Although I recognize the significance of the commitment and understand the message it sends, football recruiting is an inexact science. On-field success of individual prospects in college football is much harder to project than it is in basketball. Eric Fisher, an unranked 2-star recruit in the class of 2009 according to, was selected as the No. 1 pick in last month’s NFL Draft. In the current landscape of college basketball, a 2-star recruit has little to no chance of ever becoming a No. 1 draft pick. The AAU circuit, and the nature of the game itself, makes it easier to evaluate star basketball recruits in comparison to football prospects. There are way less games in football, which means there are less opportunities to be fully evaluated. Yes, there are passing clinics and camps for quarterbacks like Barker, but full-contact, 11-on-11 football is limited to a handful of Friday nights in the fall.

If all the dominoes fall for Drew Barker, he is going to be a very special player at Kentucky, but there’s so much that has to go right for him to meet the lofty expectations of some fans. Patrick Towles came to Kentucky with some of the same expectations that now Barker is faced with, but right now it’s uncertain if Towles will ever be the regular starter at UK. College football hasn’t been a walk in the park for Towles and it may not be for Barker either. Barker may prove good enough to be the starter as soon as he walks on campus, but the plan for him is to redshirt. Fans will have to be patient and not expect Barker to start or excel right away. Andre Woodson did not blossom until his junior year. On the other hand, Morgan Newton came to UK with high expectations and showed flashes of greatness as a freshman, but never developed into what he was expected to be.

Don’t get me wrong– Friday was a very big day for Kentucky football, regardless of what Drew Barker ever does in his collegiate career. Mark Stoops edging out Steve Spurrier for a top-10 quarterback, and Tennessee finishing a distant third in the race, is something to be very excited about because of the message it sends. The commitment of Barker, after he was once considered to be heavily leaning towards playing for the “ole ball coach” at South Carolina, shows that Stoops will not back down from anyone. He can recruit against the big boys and will not back off even when the odds may be against him. Be excited about the way Stoops is selling this program and winning recruiting battles in the SEC, but take it easy on the Tim Couch comparisons and be careful about putting too much pressure on one guy before he even begins his senior year of high school.

Enthusiasm should be tempered for Barker and any individual football recruit. What fans should be excited about are the entire classes that Mark Stoops is bringing in. Some recruits will be misses, and some will be hits. But when more four-star recruits are coming to Kentucky than ever before, the chances are that there will be many more hits than misses at this rate. Barker may become a huge part of Kentucky’s success, but for now, the focus should be on the message that his decision sends and the progress and hope that it represents. It’s not all on Drew Barker, or anyone else, but the numbers as a whole suggest very good things are coming to Commonwealth Stadium.

Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

23 Comments for Patience and Cautious Optimism Should Follow Drew Barker’s Commitment

  1. Bonnafon
    12:09 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink


  2. football school
    12:15 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    Excellent post. Football isn’t saved or doomed by one guy (unless your last name is Cobb). It takes the commitment of everyone involved to turn the ship around, and we have a great captain by the name of Stoops at the wheel. We’ll get there. Go Big Blue

  3. jpgott2
    12:20 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    We are UK fans, which means we have carried little expectation for some time. We are optimistic, yet know what UK football has been through. While saying that, everything is headed in the right direction.

  4. Surprised
    12:21 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    at the logic and level headed nature of this post given whats normally on here. You should get a promotion.

  5. sorta agree
    12:24 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    Agree with most of your post. But saying “What fans should be excited about are the entire classes that Mark Stoops is bringing in” is really kinda goofy. He has brought in exactly 1 “entire class”, and has only a handful of commits on board for 2014. No doubt its headed in the right direction. What I want to see is how complete the 2014 class is, and how many current commits stick, after this coming season. It won’t be pretty. John Clay’s LHL article Sunday said he saw both UK and WKU spring practices and WKU looks to be the better team at this point. Now that is scary.

  6. recruitniq
    12:30 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    Great post. Not only is it difficult to predict the success of a player based off of their number of stars, but even moreso with a QB. Take a look at the past few years of Rivals QB rankings. Many of those four star, and even five star guys, have never panned out. Now don’t get me wrong, I hope Barker is the cornerstone of this program, and that the four and five stars continue to roll in. This post just makes a valid point about harnessing expectations for young QB’s based on their # of stars.

  7. Feesh
    12:35 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    Great job John. Way to hit the nail on the head. But next time, just write an article and simply say, “I’m glad we got Drew Barker, but lets he honest, ITS STILL UK FOOTBALL.”

  8. gary
    12:45 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    If and when UK starts signing 4 star interior linemen and linebackers we will see a UK compete consistently in the SEC. UK’s weakness has and always will be depth at these positions. Anyone can sign big boys, but if they never develop past division 2 abilities then you see a team that gets man handled every week in the SEC.

  9. jpgott2
    12:45 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    The greatest thing about Stoops and company is that they are getting more talent across the board when in comparison to the previous regime. Everyone should be cautiously optimistic, yet I can say that UK football can not have gotten any worse than the time of the Joker Phillips Era….

  10. rick
    12:49 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    We good a good recurit and you write this crap. Listen no one knows if anyone is going to work out, but why not just enjoy we got this guy and not waste ypour time on what ifs. A waste of space.

  11. wait a sec...
    12:51 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    logic about UK football expectations and recruiting? Am I on the write website?

  12. jpgott2
    12:57 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    8., the thing is Joker and company could not DEVELOP anyone into anything! They were not only getting low level players, but they were not able to develop said players. Joker depended one ONE single player (Cobb) to be his everything. That is RIDICULOUS!!!!

    I believe that Stoops will not only bring in better talent, but he will also develop that talent into SEC caliber talent. The good thing is that Stoops is a proven defensive guy. Our overall defense should be very solid after a few year of recruitment and development.

  13. Penny Dollar
    12:58 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    As you say: Eric Fisher, an unranked 2-star recruit in the class of 2009 according to, was selected as the No. 1 pick in last month’s NFL.
    Another reason why rivals rankings are a joke.
    Do you remember Randall Cobb, a 2 star rivals recruit?

  14. jpgott2
    1:00 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    11., when have UK fans ever had expectations about football? Really? If you want some illogical and straight mind numbing thought, than go read some UL football talk on CardChronicle. You would think they had been beating Alabama for the last decade.

  15. cdc_uky
    1:10 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    Your post is spot on.

    However, your timing sucks. We get a big recruit, over other SEC schools none-the-less, and you write an article taking the wind out of the fanbase’s sails…why? Lets keep momentum, positivity, and keep pulling in recruits that UK does not usually get.

    John Wilmhoff = Jerry Tipton Intern

  16. Al/in/Indy
    1:12 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    12, also remember Joker’s game calling was just that….A joke. When we had a chance to beat UT Cobb never saw the ball in the closing period.

  17. The price is right
    1:13 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    Barker appears to be a very smart young man. He probably knew all along he was coming to UK, however played all options and made himself known throughout the country. He made his committment a huge deal which drew huge state of Kentucky and national media attention. He committed in a packed gym in his high school. He thanked his coaches and his team members. He thanked his parents. He stated he is coming to UK in January knowing the coaching staff plans on red shirting him, but planning on being the starting QB come the first game against WKU. Barker obviously understands how he got to where he is. True team player! Much success to him at UK!

  18. Musehobo
    1:43 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    Wilmhoff isn’t pissing on our parade. He knows some of our fans. People will be calling for Barker to start as soon as we lose our first game. This is a message of tempered expectations. It’s not meant to make that feel-good special place in your heart turn black again.

  19. Ronnie
    1:45 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    Best thing he can do is fade out of the press. Keep his mouth closed and play football.The hype and desire for it can ruin you fast. The higher you are on the ladder the more Monkeys trying to pull you off. Good luck Drew now go to work. Media and fans are not your friends. You are as good as your last pass.

  20. 14.
    1:56 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    you are talking like you haven’t lost to florida in 26 straight years…

  21. Al/in/Indy
    2:18 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    21, I seem to remember someone else not winning anything for some 26 years…….see….. even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.
    And the reason UF lost to Uvel, you don’t have to look any farther than who was on the side lines coaching……I rest my case!

  22. josh
    3:05 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    16..most correct statement ever made. And Newtons flashes of greatness were an illusion.

  23. mudcreekmark
    5:01 pm May 13, 2013 Permalink

    Basketball has its AAU games in the summer where the best compete against the best and you can get a pretty good idea who can play at a high level. They play hundreds and hundreds of games against the best competition in the nation. In football we are trying to evaluate all kinds of players against all types of different levels of competition. In Kentucky, a player may dominate the competition and get ranked really high but in reality, if the same kid was going against competition in Florida, he may not even start or even make the team. Year after year our best teams play Cinncinnati teams and hardly ever beat these teams and I know those teams cannot be the best in Ohio every year. So our best teams cannot compete against Ohios also runs. How do you think they would fair against the best team in Florida or Alabama or Georgia? They would get crushed.