Stop what you’re doing right now, knock on wood, rub some rabbit feet, do whatever you do to get the heebie-jeebies out of harm’s way. We need to talk about the elephant in the room.
Drew Barker is out for a “significant amount of time” according to coach Stoops, a specific timetable ranging anywhere from 4-6 weeks before the team reevaluates his status for the rest of the season. Stephen Johnson replaced Barker last week against New Mexico State, and managed to put up record numbers, giving fans a glimmer of hope for the near future. Though there was optimism to come out of the NMSU game on the offensive side of the ball, a huge question has now come to light:
What in the world happens if Stephen Johnson manages to get hurt?
As a running quarterback, injuries happen fairly regularly (I’m talking about you RGIII), and UK can under zero circumstances afford to have Johnson go down. After an outside run last weekend against NMSU where he was tugged to the ground by an uncalled horsecollar tackle, both fans and the coaching staff about had a heart attack. Designated run plays immediately halted for Johnson for the remainder of the game, but how long can the coaching staff go without using the QB’s ability as a duel-threat runner? What is the risk/reward in this scenario? You designate runs, you risk injury. You avoid injury, Johnson becomes one-dimensional. It’s a tricky situation, to say the least.
Behind Johnson, the cabinet isn’t bare, but it’s certainly not as satisfying as we’d all hope.
Cincinnati transfer Luke Wright is technically the backup as of right now, coming in at the end of the NMSU game for cleanup duty, and co-OC Darin Hinshaw had some great things to say about him this past week. He said, “Luke knows the offense inside and out. He’s been obviously at Cincinnati, and now he’s here. He knows everything, where to go.” He knows the system, and in a pinch, he should be able to contribute. At the very least, he can be really good at handing the ball off to Boom, Benny, or Jojo.
Beyond Wright, the main guy to keep your eye on is true freshman Gunnar Hoak. Just throwing this out there, I thought Hoak looked pretty darn good during the Blue-White game. He was poised in the pocket and hit his targets on some fairly tough throws. Sure, he was slinging the rock against the third/fourth team defense, but it was impressive nonetheless. UK is trying to preserve his redshirt, but if I had to place a bet, I’d say Gunnar would end up taking the team over until either Barker or Johnson returned from injury.
With Julian Edelman being the Patriots backup QB behind Jacoby Brissett last night with Jimmy Garoppolo out, or better yet Kentucky already throwing Matt Roark under center against Tennessee back in 2011, maybe Eddie Gran tries to run something similar? Does Kentucky run a strict WildKemp/WildBoom formation, a la South Carolina back in 2014? Or do they look at receiver, say Garrett Johnson or Dorian Baker (insert muffed snap joke here) to run the offense?
On a complete side note, how nice would it be to have Patrick Towles or Reese Phillips right about now.
For all of our sanity, let’s just pray that Johnson manages to stay healthy and continues to dominate on the field. It’d be nice to get back to .500 and start a three game win streak against the Gamecocks.