Kentucky ran out of quarterbacks in 2019. Just a few months later the Wildcats have an embarrassment of riches in the quarterback room.
Mark Stoops successfully recruited a homegrown legacy recruit, Beau Allen, to join the 2020 class last spring. As the Early Signing Period drew near, another talented prospect popped up on their radar when Auburn’s Joey Gatewood entered the transfer portal. A former top 50 recruit, UK’s coaching staff made a significant impression to sign the outstanding athlete.
A crowded quarterback room is a problem in many college football programs. That’s currently not the case at Kentucky.
“I love competition. I wouldn’t wanna go nowhere without competition. It’s part of the game,” Gatewood told KSR Wednesday morning. “What happened at Auburn, happened at Auburn. I’m ready to compete again. It’s just in me. I love it.”
On top of the two additions, Terry Wilson is expected to return to action during preseason training camp. Instead of developing a rivalry, Wilson and Gatewood have created a friendship.
“It’s been really good. Terry was my host when I was a recruit, so he was the one that really told me how things were, how things are here. It still is to this day really good. That’s my man. I can’t wait to see him get better,” said Gatewood.
Just as Gatewood encourages the competition, so does Allen. Before UK’s coaches began recruiting Gatewood, they reached out to their long-time commitment. Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw cultivated a long-lasting relationship with Allen over the years. They were not willing to ruin it with one conversation to a former Blue Chip recruit in the transfer portal. When asked if it would bother him, Allen never hesitated.
“Competition is everywhere. When they told me about recruiting him and him coming, I was all for it, just for the competition and the level of the talent in the quarterback room that it would be,” Allen said.
If nothing else, last year’s injuries to Wilson and Sawyer Smith proved that you can never have too many quarterbacks.
“Anything can happen in college football and the conference we play in. Anything can happen with the amount of depth you have. There’s always more that you want. It’s always good to have competition.” Allen added, “It’s been great. I love all of those guys very much.”
This spring Allen and Gatewood will be thrown right into the fire, receiving significant reps alongside Smith as Terry Wilson continues the rehab process. Even so, neither are expected to play this fall. The most likely scenario is that Allen will redshirt and Gatewood will be sidelined after completing an intra-conference transfer.
Gatewood is applying to the NCAA for a waiver that would grant him immediate eligibility. Typically the former school’s cooperation factors heavily into the NCAA’s decision-making process. At the moment Gatewood is unsure how much Auburn will help, if at all.
“I’m not sure yet,” he said. “We’ll go from there.”
Auburn is making a rare appearance on Kentucky’s schedule in 2020. UK will travel to The Plains to face the Western Division foe in October. Gatewood bit his tongue when asked what it would mean to play in the game.
College football quarterbacks now transfer more than ever, just not within the same conference. The transfer rules still require an athlete to sit out a year if they remain in the same conference, deterring many from making the move. Gatewood always knew he’d remain in the SEC.
“The SEC is full of top dogs. It’s full of top dogs and I really do believe I should have stayed in this conference.”
Which is exactly why he went to the SEC school that attempted the fewest passes in the conference last season. It does not make sense on paper. Once Gatewood spoke to Gran and Hinshaw, he was sold on their ability to gameplan around a quarterback’s strengths.
“It takes good coaching to scheme up and still win with a guy like him (Lynn Bowden) at quarterback,” said Gatewood. “That’s how you know they’re really good coaches. If they can mix up schemes and help them win games, (they’ll) do whatever they have to do to win games. That was not a quarterback back there. It was a receiver. To see the games he did — Lynn’s a great athlete. Lynn’s a great football player. It takes a lot of smarts to do that.”
Kentucky’s offensive coaches have different kinds of weapons to create specific schemes this fall. Even though neither Allen or Gatewood may play, just their presence will create a diverse offensive playbook. No stranger to a quarterback competition, Gatewood believes it will bring out the best in each player, something he learned after losing the starting position to Bo Nix last fall.
“When you go into a situation like this, it’s something, either you can go through it or you can grow through it,” he said. “I’m going to grow through this whole experience.”