Let me preface this by saying I backed Patrick Towles until the very end last season, and I am still upset that it came down to him transferring. If it was possible, I would still love to be cheering for Patty Ice come September 3rd. But, here we are and Drew Barker is going to be in the shotgun against Southern Mississippi and I know many, like me, need a little psyching up about him being QB1 to wash away those doubts. So, in order to get myself hyped up and others, I’ve taken a stab at why we as a collective group of fans need to be excited about the Drew Barker era:
We haven’t seen the best of him yet
In Towles’ two years at the helm, we had seen the best of him in the South Carolina game for the first signature win of the Mark Stoops era. But we had also seen the worst of him too many times to count. I’m not saying that every loss was his fault, because it wasn’t. Offensive line woes, receivers who didn’t know how to receive and an un-trusting coaching staff in Shannon Dawson left little room for error.
So, by the time Drew Barker finally got his shot at the end of the season, the damage was already done. Morale was low in both the fans and the team. There were a couple of shining moments at the end where we saw a little bit of Barker’s talent, but for the most part, he’s still a big, giant unknown. The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to what Barker can accomplish this season and that should be incredibly exciting.
He’s proven himself to be a leader in the offseason
One of the many, many problems from last season was the swirling rumors of animosity in the locker room. Did the younger guys want Barker instead of Towles? Did the older guys not trust Barker? What was going on with Shannon Dawson and Towles? Were some teammates upset about Boom leaving and then coming back? It seemed that there was little leadership in Kentucky’s locker room, if there was any at all. The players only meeting that was called late in the season last year gave a glimmer of hope but seemed to have a limited impact.
After off the field issues last year, Barker accepted some harsh words from Darin Hinshaw and has shined as a leader. He’s led the offense in summer workouts and learned that being a leader doesn’t always mean you have to be liked. Coach Hinshaw has even sung some praises about Barker stepping up as a leader telling media, “I’m really proud of how he’s handled himself.”
He’s shined again and again in practice this summer
We’ve read report after report of Barker excelling in summer practice and fall camp. He’s connecting with receivers and has sped up his feet to get the ball out of the pocket quicker when the offensive line fails to hold the attack, something Towles struggled with last season. While I know this is just summer practice and not a real game, it’s incredibly positive to see these kind of things continuing to come in.
While today’s scrimmage wasn’t the best the Cats have had this season, the offense still had several positive moments. Barker threw an interception, something Stoops said has been a rarity so far in practice. Check out some more from today’s scrimmage in Kindsey’s post here.
However, Stephen Johnson is right on his tail and is not going to let up. The second it seems that Barker isn’t going to be able to get the job done, Johnson is ready to step in.
Barker has himself a QB coach and it seems to be paying off
A large part of the problem in the last several years is the inconsistency in the offensive coaching staff. Neal Brown was good, but left for bigger and better things. Shannon Dawson, aka the king of conditional statements, didn’t trust his QB and had a tendency to run the ball when the ball should not have been ran. Now that Eddie Gran is at the helm and Darren Hinshaw is working one-on-one with Barker, the offense has never looked better and neither has Barker. Having someone with Barker’s sole focus and best interest in mind is going to pay off heavily this season and I’m excited to see the product of all their hard work.