Since Mark Stoops’ arrival, four Kentucky quarterbacks have transferred. Starting with Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow, Patrick Towles, and now Reece Phillips later followed suit.
Concerning? Yes. But in 2015/16, quarterbacks on the move are about as newsworthy as what I had for supper. With no intention to magnify or disrespect departing players, in today’s college football environment, quarterbacks play or find a new home. Grass was greener for both Smith and Whitlow as the pair found post-UK success. As for Towles and Phillips, time will tell.
So, what does this mean for the 2016 Wildcats? For better or worse, Mark Stoops will be eternally conjoined with Drew Barker. Of the four QBs that left Lexington, all were signed or originally recruited by Joker Phillips. Drew Barker is Stoops’ guy. As the leader of the vaunted Class of 2014, the time is now for that group to transition propaganda to touchdowns, catches, tackles, and ultimately wins.
UK is one hit or off the field incident from true freshman Gunnar Hoak or walk-on Davis Mattingly being the starting quarterback. Think about that for a minute. Kentucky has gone from three quarterbacks with game experience on its roster to just one. The one, Drew Barker has started all of two games and played in five. His numbers: 50% completion percentage after going 35-70 for 364 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown pass.
Gunnar Hoak is a promising passer. Preceding Phillips’ announcement, Hoak’s decision for January enrollment has become an unexpected sanctification. Mattingly impressed during the Border Bowl and is a capable signal caller if called upon. However, the Kentucky quarterback position can now best be described as precarious. Amplifying the issue is that Kentucky’s offense will be led by its yet to be named third offensive coordinator in three years. UK is not the only program in this situation. From Lexington, Gainesville, and College Station, welcome to college football in the 21st century.
Some have inquired if the high number of quarterback transfers are a reflection of a speculated locker room divide. Generalizing the foursome would be unfair. Each move was most likely determined by varying factors. To lay sole blame on conjecture would be overly simplistic. Regardless of reason, I am confident in saying that Smith, Whitlow, Towles, and Phillips are all stand-up young men and wish them the very best. But the program and life must go on. Thank you and goodbyes will be quickly forgotten as tomorrow becomes paramount in the win at all cost and unforgiving Southeastern Conference.
As I’ve told many high school teams and groups of college football hopefuls, the one word that is constantly screamed on the game or practice field is NEXT. For Kentucky, next is now the only operative proposition.