When you look at the Kentucky football depth chart, there’s more talent layered throughout than we’ve seen in years. Decades, even.
There’s a solid chance we see seven or eight Wildcats drafted next spring, and even more young NFL talent sprinkled in the next few years. Mark Stoops has begged for this kind of depth, talent, and experience since he got to Kentucky, and he finally has it. For all of the questions he has fielded over the years, he finally has the answers.
Except for the starting quarterback position.
At his annual Kentucky Football Kickoff Banquet at Kroger Field’s Woodford Reserve Club this afternoon, Stoops addressed the controversial quarterback battle between Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak.
“The quarterback is the big decision and the big question mark at this point, just because they haven’t played football yet for us in a college game,” Stoops said.
But just because it’s currently a question mark doesn’t mean he’s unhappy with the candidates.
“I love our options,” Stoops said. “We feel very strongly (about them). There’s a comfort level because the team has experience all around them.”
Though the team was successful under quarterback Stephen Johnson, the Kentucky head coach understands the offense needs to improve in the passing game. But success starts up front at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, two position groups he’s extremely confident in.
“We all know that we need to take our passing game to another level and get some explosive plays, and we’re working hard to do that,” Stoops said. “But without being physical up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage, it’s definitely a recipe for failure. So you have to have strength, you have to be physical, you have to run the ball, you have to be able to stop the run. It starts there for us.”
Tom Leach, the voice of the Kentucky Wildcats and the event’s emcee, asked the head coach whether he was ready to name a starting quarterback or not.
“No, you know better than that,” Stoops responded with a laugh.
So what is the staff looking for in their starting quarterback for the upcoming season? What is going to be the deciding factor?
Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said each quarterback’s ability to run the offense in upcoming scrimmages will be very telling.
“It goes with leadership, it goes with how you run the offense, especially in scrimmage-type situations,” Gran said. “For a quarterback, being on target is important, you have to be able to complete the ball. Decision-making is such a huge part, especially when the bullets start flying. There’s going to be a lot of things to take into account when we make this decision.”
Will the playbook/schemes be limited due to the inexperience of the quarterbacks, or will they be able to open it up with the experience elsewhere?
Gran says it’ll be slow to start with, but they’ll build the system as we inch closer to kickoff.
“A little bit of both, but what we did find out in the spring is that as we limited it, we got better,” Gran said. “Coach challenged some of our guys, we competed, we had a little bit more urgency. As we move forward and we’re successful with it, then we’ll add. Right now I like where they’re at and the effort they’ve had this summer. They know what to do and they can play fast, and that’s good for us.”
In yesterday’s Kickoff Luncheon in Louisville, Gran said he hopes the cream will rise to the top and “somebody just takes the job.”
“You can’t simulate the full speed part of it, but I think it really helped our quarterbacks. We’ll continue to do that and hopefully somebody just takes the job.”