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Evaluating Kentucky’s Quarterback Competition after an Open Spring Practice

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Mark Stoops opened his doors for the media to watch a morning practice for the first time this spring.  After hearing the coaches talk about the quarterback competition for a month, I now have a better understanding where each player stands.

The comments from coaches have not grabbed headlines, but they’ve been fair.

“You saw it, what was the difference?” Stoops asked.  “They (wide receivers) made plays for them.  That’s the deal.  When they throw it in good places, just like the last play in the team period that you guys saw, you gotta catch it.  That was a fantastic catch that leads to a touchdown.  That makes the quarterbacks look good.”

The last play of the scrimmage was a fourth down from about the 18 yard line.  Terry Wilson found David Bouvier out of the slot in the middle of the field.  He hauled in an incredible one-handed catch and fell into the end zone for a score.

“If people make competitive plays, the quarterbacks are going to look good,” Stoops said.

The head coach isn’t lying, but there are more things to take away from today’s two-hour practice, but please, please keep in mind that this is just one practice.  Two hours of spring practice cannot determine the outcome of a quarterback competition.

Gunnar Hoak

If Kentucky played today, Gunnar Hoak would be the starting quarterback.

Hoak looks like he’s been in Eddie Gran’s system for three springs.  Comfortable with the ball in his hands, he has a knack for finding the open man and putting it in the perfect spot.  Accuracy is Hoak’s greatest strength.  He hits his receivers in stride and is not afraid to thread the needle between two or three defenders.

During one-on-ones or half-line — a series where the offense and defense split the field — I failed to find an instance where Hoak made a bad throw.  The reads where quick, usually to underneath routes.  Gunnar does not have the biggest arm, but on fade routes he put the ball in a position for receivers to make plays, and they often did.

Seen by many as strictly a pocket passer, Hoak showed off his legs too.  Quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw gave a Tiger Woods-like fist pump when Gunnar correctly kept the ball on a read option and ran it for 12 yards before the defense could corral him.

Hoak surprised, but he wasn’t perfect.  When the team went to Kroger Field for an 11-on-11 scrimmage, pressure forced him to make a few bad throws.  How he handles pressure and the spotlight will determine his success at Kentucky.

Terry Wilson

Terry Touchdown looks the part.  You hear the cliche, “he puts zip on the ball.”  Wilson’s zip is audible.  You hear a hiss when it leaves his hands.  He has quite the cannon and can throw the deep ball out of the defense’s reach.

To be completely honest, Terry Touchdown is incredibly difficult to judge.

Wilson has been on campus for a little over two months, and it shows.  When operating in drills outside of 11-on-11, he makes all of throws.  The margin between him and Hoak is extremely slim.  Once all of the pieces are put together, you can see that he does not have the same feel for the offense as Hoak.  It’s hard to describe it an a word, but Wilson just doesn’t look as comfortable in the offense.

One thing that hurts Wilson in practice but will help him in a game setting is his ability to make plays when things break down.  Terry Touchdown is the type of guy to shake off a tackle in the pocket, tuck it and run it for 25 yards.  That can’t be simulated in practice.  It’s probably his greatest strength and Gunnar’s greatest weakness.

The good news: Wilson has three months to become engrained in Kentucky’s offense.  He will not have as much experience as Gunnar, but he can be just as comfortable in the system as his competition by the time things get serious this summer.

Danny Clark

The big lefty is a wild card.  He might be the most entertaining player on the field because you never know what’s going to happen after he takes the snap.  He could put a laser down the middle of the field for a 15-yard gain, tuck the ball and run for a dozen powerful yards or overthrow a receiver by eight yards.

Clark’s arm is unpredictable, by incredibly strong.  A positive person with a winner’s mentality, he is probably not in the mix to start this year.  However, the redshirt freshman will be excellent in the QB’s meeting and he has the right attitude to steadily improve throughout his time in a Kentucky uniform.

What Does it All Mean?

First and foremost, please remember this is just one small sample size of what the coaches have seen.  But after two hours, I can confidently say that I am not worried about the quarterback position.

In seven years, I’ve seen a quarterback competition in all but two.  Hoak and Wilson could have easily won each competition, but this one might be the closest of them all.  Wilson has incredible physical tools and Hoak is the most accurate passer I’ve seen at a Kentucky practice.

The margin between the two is slim.  Hoak currently has a slight advantage, but this quarterback competition is far from finished.

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Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

12 Comments for Evaluating Kentucky’s Quarterback Competition after an Open Spring Practice



  1. Sergeant
    2:08 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

    Gunner who? lol, couldn’t resist.



    • UoKFB PHAN
      8:58 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

      I think we aggravated them enough until they decided to give us an update to shut us up. 😉 Oh wait… this comment might get placed ‘under mediation’ like one of my last ones.



  2. Le Docteur
    2:56 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

    Eddie Gran’s offense works best when it’s balanced between good strong runners and good accurate passers. I’d give the edge to whichever QB is able to hit the short and mid-range throws accurately. Gran has been handcuffed for 2 years with less accurate passers than he wants and, thanks to Gran’s improvisation the Stephen Johnson’s gifts, we’ve had enough success to make it to bowl games. Gran’s gonna want someone who can pass accurately.



    • UoKFB PHAN
      8:46 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

      Spot on. I went back and looked at the numbers for Gran’s three years at UC. All three years were extremely balanced between run and pass. I think the year with the greatest difference was still something like 54% run and 46% pass which is really balanced. The other two years were closer to a 50/50 mix but leaned slightly to the pass.



    • notFromhere
      9:21 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

      He’s been “handcuffed” with a kid that needed shoulder surgeries and still pulled out more wins than any QB in a while.



  3. krautdog
    2:57 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

    Thanks for the info!



  4. Clyde X
    3:08 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

    So, what difference does it make who we have playing QB? It could be Peyton Manning in his prime and all he would do is hand the ball to Benny.



  5. RogerW
    4:02 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

    Let’s face it, even with a quarterback with a strong arm, the long ball is a very small portion of the game. Most teams only attempt the long ball a few times a game. The completion % for the long ball is fairly low for most teams. The short game is what keeps the chains moving and keeps the offense on the field.

    I really admire what Stephen Johnson did for us. In his two years, he had lots of 3rd and 4th down conversions that kept the offense on the field. But, had he been able to hit the short pass, we would not have needed him to do something spectacular on so many 3rd or 4th down conversions..



    • whatwasthat
      4:42 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

      Good post, the bomb looks great when it’s caught and Badet was good at hauling them in, without him and a bad shoulder with Johnson and the passing game took a nose dive. Johnson was one tough kid, but his accuracy in short and intermediate passes left a lot to be desired and Conrad and others wasted.



  6. notFromhere
    9:31 pm April 5, 2018 Permalink

    To be fair Badet wasn’t enough of a 3 down guy, or he’d have had better numbers here and at OU. Barely beat his numbers at UK the year before. Baker being hurt is what cost us in the long passing game more than Badet.

    Definitely need more accuracy, and full progressions, combined with true option reads. The line needs to be stellar to get the most out of the TE position and the middle of the field.



  7. kjd
    7:52 am April 6, 2018 Permalink

    Thanks for a balanced update.