Drew Barker was front and center during today’s Media Day festivities, and joined Freddie Maggard and Christi Thomas for a segment on UK Athletics’ live show. As someone who was blown away by Drew’s maturity his senior year of high school and then watched him struggle his first few years in Lexington, I’m coming in to this season with tempered expectations for the redshirt sophomore, but his demeanor today was a good start.
During his presser, Eddie Gran talked a lot about how he wants Drew to take ownership of the team, even if it means calling people out and not being “the popular guy.” In his remarks to Fred and Christi, it sounds like Barker’s ready to do just that, describing how he and the other quarterbacks spearheaded a rigorous offseason training routine with the rest of the offense starting in January, the first time that’s happened since he arrived at UK in 2014.
“It started in January when the coaches got here. We put together a plan of the routes they wanted. Basically, before spring ball, myself and the other quarterbacks, we would make sure we’d have throwing every day but Thursday before spring ball, so we made sure all receivers, running backs, and tight ends were out there, making sure they’re holding people accountable if they weren’t coming.”
“Then we had spring ball, and after spring ball, it’s been pretty much the same, but we’ve amped it up. Instead of doing routes, we’ve been doing plays. We’ve been doing basically mini practices by ourselves as players with no coaches out there. I’m really excited, I feel like we should have a step up. We’ve never done that since I’ve been here. I feel like all the players have taken more of a leadership role, each position group, guys are starting to come out and being more vocal. I think that’s because people are older and more mature. I’m really excited to see how we look, I feel like we will be ahead once we get out there today.”
If Barker looks the part of QB1 more than he did last season, it’s because of Corey Edmond’s strength and conditioning program this summer. Barker said Stoops challenged Edmond and his staff to get the team in shape to “finish” strong.
“One of the big things coming off last year, the past two seasons, we haven’t been able to finish,” Barker said. “Coach Stoops, one of the main things he told Coach [Corey] Edmond and the strength staff, ‘I want to up everything in the weight room, running, conditioning, everything, because I want to finish the season, games, fourth quarters. When we get a lead, we have to finish and close it out.'”
With camp starting, Barker said Coach Ed’s primary work is done, and it’s up to the coaches and players to handle everything “from the neck up.”
“Coach Ed gave us a speech last night and said, ‘I’m 100% confident in everybody from the neck down. You guys all look like specimens, I know everyone can run, jump out of the gym. But now we have to get everyone from the neck up, play books, mental toughness, everything like that.’ I feel like we’ve done a really good job of that this offseason.”
What happens on the field remains to be seen, but after a rough few years, it’s really good to see the confident and poised Drew Barker I used to know.