Do you realize that Kentucky has used 16 different starting quarterbacks in the 21 seasons since Tim Couch left the school. Some have been legends and some have been downright terrible. But I tried my best to rank the 16 guys based on their impact on the field, longevity, talent, and stats. I think there is a lot of argument to be had on many of these guys and hell, Kentucky has had 3 wide receivers start games for them since 1999. How do you rank them? But here is my best shot:
1. Andre Woodson
Was Lorenzen a better talent? Maybe so. But you can’t deny the on the field impact that Andre Woodson had. After 4 years of inconsistency at the position, Woodson took over in 2005 and had a very mediocre sophomore season. And midway through his junior season, things were not going much better. But Woodson found his groove just in time to save Rich Brooks’ job, beat Georgia, and the 2007 season became one of the more memorable in UK history. Woodson touched the Heisman conversation, had multiple historic moments and will certainly see his name in the Ring of Honor.
2. Jared Lorenzen
For pure athletic ability, Lorenzen is probably tops on the list. The things he could do at his size were truly unbelievable. His was a cultural icon at the school and dented all kinds of records that still stand at Kentucky. There are really 2 knocks against Lorenzen. He didn’t win all that much and he had to battle for the job with Shane Boyd for middle part of his career. But his legacy is secured and with better talent around him, he could have been Couch level good at UK.
3. Stephen Johnson
I seriously considered putting Johnson ahead of Lorenzen but the stats just don’t match up. The biggest heart on the list though. He took over a program in turmoil in 2016 and finally led the Cats back to a bowl. He did the same the next year, all while the fans called for him to be relieved of the job. Did he have limitations? Of course he did. But the several far more talented guys below him won far fewer games. And that’s all that really matters.
4. Lynn Bowden
I honestly have no clue where to put Bowden. His impact on the game as quarterback last year was as impactful as anybody not named Woodson. He went 6-2 as the starter. He had absolutely historic performances and won a bowl game. But he’s also not really a quarterback. Would you rather have him than Woodson or Lorenzen? I wouldn’t. Maybe Stephen Johnson. MAYBE. I think you could argue Bowden anywhere from #2 to #6 on this list and have good reasons. But no matter where, the performance was absolutely unbelievable.
5. Mike Hartline
Like many of the guys on this list, Hartline’s career is complicated. On the one hand, his first three years were a real struggle. He never had a strong grip on the job, losing it to Randall Cobb at one point, and his stats through his junior year were just 15 TD and 16 INT. But then, his senior year was amazing. It was really one of the better QB years on this list. 23 touchdown passes, nearly 275 yards passing per game. I’m not sure if Hartline wasn’t near the bottom in pure talent and without that senior season he might be near the bottom. But that one year saved his career here.
6. Terry Wilson
So I think Wilson is a dividing line of sorts on this list. Guys above Wilson made a significant impact on the program. And guys below him didn’t quite as much. The jury is out on Terry as his first year was an incredible 10-3 year but largely relied on the running game and defense. Wilson was certainly a game manager that season. Last season, things looked like Wilson was going to break out before a season ending injury. If Wilson decides to play this season, I think he could leap into the Top 3 with a great year. But if the injury continues to slow him down, I think he might have hit his ceiling.
7. Patrick Towles
Towles was a Kentucky kid and had some moments on the field. He showed a strong arm and some ability with his legs but he couldn’t quite get the Cats over the bowl hump and that weighs him down some. He certainly got a fair shot at UK but he threw 24 TD’s and 24 INT’s over his career, showing the inconsistency. He transferred from UK to Boston College.
8. Dusty Bonner
Bonner only got 1 year on the job, taking over an impossible spot following Tim Couch. But the guy threw for 26 touchdowns in 1999 and had Jared Lorenzen not come into the program in 2000, who knows what a 2nd season would have looked like. He showed the talent but will forever be a what if guy in UK lore.
9. Drew Barker
Lots of hype for Barker coming in and the big arm showed sometimes. He got 2 starts as a redshirt freshman and then started off his sophomore campaign hot. But the crushing losses to Southern Miss and Florida and a season ending injury against New Mexico State ushered in the Stephen Johnson era and Barker never really saw the field again. If he goes injury free, we might have seen the guy who got UK into bowls and we never hear of Johnson. But Barker’s career didn’t go that way.
10. Maxwell Smith
Smith actually had flashes of great play at Kentucky but a shoulder injury and ankle injury derailed any real impact at the school. He was all-SEC Freshman team after starting 3 games in 2011. Then in the first 4 games of 2012, he threw for nearly 1,000 yards before getting injured. He was never the same, although in 2013 he threw 9 TD’s to just 1 INT but his arm strength was gone. He transferred after that season to San Diego State. A healthy Smith leaps much higher in this list.
11. Jalen Whitlow
Whitlow was quarterback on two different 2-10 Kentucky teams. But the guy started 15 games over those 2 years and wasn’t awful. He just played on absolutely awful teams. And clearly Mark Stoops needed to move in a different direction with the program after 2013. It’s hard to know where to put Whitlow because his teams were so bad. But I think middle of the road basically explains his abilities and career at UK.
12. Randall Cobb
This is blasphemous, right? Again, this is just a quarterback list. And Cobb was only a starter for 4 games during his freshman year. Despite rushing for 7 touchdowns, his passing stats were just 2 TD’s and 5 INT’s. So while he is the absolute best PLAYER on the list, he was probably one of the worst quarterbacks.
13. Sawyer Smith
Another guy who had an injury that completed depleted his abilities. His first game as starter against Florida was damn near heroic. But an injury in that game followed by subsequent embarrassing performances against South Carolina and Mississippi State means he is currently 0-3 as a starter. I’m cutting him some slack because of the injury and he tried to fight through but that only gets him so far.
14. Morgan Newton
There wasn’t a more disappointing player in the last 20 years than Newton. He was supposed to be the FUTURE of UK football when he committed. And people forget that he started 8 games as true freshman and went 5-3, leading UK to a bowl. But Hartline beat him out his sophomore season and then in his final 2 years he completed just 93 of 206 passes for 9 TD’s and 10 INT’s. Admittedly those were some of the worst UK teams but Newton played a factor in that. It turned out he just wasn’t very good.
15. Shane Boyd
So I struggled with where to put Boyd because the talent was there. Many will talk about him like he could have been a top tier SEC quarterback. But despite battling Lorenzen for 2 years for the starting job, and then Andre Woodson his senior season, he never really got a full season and the stats were never that good. Were his teams not very good? Of course. But Boyd just never got his footing at Kentucky.
16. Matt Roark
OK, in his one and only start he beats Tennessee. So how do I put him last on the list? Well, in that game he only led the Cats to 10 points and only completed 4 of 6 passes for 15 yards. He did rush for 124 yards though. But let’s face reality, Roark will forever be this strange footnote in Kentucky history but not for his skills at playing quarterback.