Making the Most of Spring

Drew to Horton

UK football wrapped up their spring game last Saturday. The Blue team beat the White 30-21 in the annual Blue-White scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium. Sophomore quarterback Drew Barker completed 12 of his 18 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. The performance was enough for UK Head Coach Mark Stoops to declare Barker the starter heading into the summer. Eddie Gran is the Cats’ third offensive coordinator in the last three seasons. Along with Barker, Gran has some depth at running back. Freshman Sihiem King impressed, rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown. He’ll battle for playing time with returnees JoJo Kemp, Mikel Horton and Stanley “Boom” Williams. Williams did not participate in contact drills this spring after having elbow surgery.

What were your impressions of the game?

Eddie Gran: You know what? I was glad that nobody got hurt. You always come out of the spring and you want to make sure that everybody is healthy. We started off a little slow. We didn’t convert on a couple of third downs, had a couple of drops, but I thought as the scrimmage went on that the execution was good. We did some really nice things. Threw the ball down the field, made some nice catches. Scored in the red zone with a tough catch, a nice two-minute drill.

Coach Stoops said that Drew will be the starter. What has he shown you this spring?

Gran: I think each week, he got better. I really do. In those four or five weeks, he just kept continuing to get better, and Stephen Johnson is pushing him. I think that helped more than anything else and Stephen is still competing for that job, but going out of the spring, Drew is our starting quarterback. He earned it, and it’s wonderful to have a guy like that behind him.

What does it mean to you to be named the starter heading into the summer?

Drew Barker: It’s a great feeling, but you’ve just got to keep your foot on the gas. I’m not going to treat it any different. I’m just going to go out there and keep trying to get better every day. If you ever think you’ve arrived or anything, that’s just bad. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady – those guys are watching more film than anybody, and they’re considered the greatest of all-time. So you just have to have that drive to keep going.

What is it about this new offense that gives you confidence that you guys can be successful?

Barker: They definitely put a lot on our shoulders as quarterbacks, which I like. The protections and everything we’re calling out. I really feel like the quarterback is in command of this offense, which is a great thing for my comfort level. I’m moving the protections.

With so many options at running back, how tough is it to wait your turn?

Sihiem King: We just always hold each other accountable. We’re always telling each other right from wrong, all the good stuff we’re doing and the bad stuff we’re doing. We just try to compete with each other.

What are your strengths?

King: I just bring speed and quickness. I just try to be a playmaker.

What did you see from Drew this spring that let you know that he can run this offense?

King: He showed great leadership this spring. He learned the offense fast, and he tells us what we’re doing wrong. I think he’s a great fit for this offense.

What is different about the new offense?

JoJo Kemp: A lot of guys are a lot more mature. We just want to win. We’ve got that focus and that mentality that we just want to win for our teammates, our fans and everyone around us.

What did you see from Drew Barker this spring to give you confidence that he can run this offense?

Kemp: I have faith in all the quarterbacks. It’s great to hear that he’s the starter, but we’re going to keep on riding both the quarterbacks because you never know when you’ll get a chance to get in the game. We want to treat all of them like they’re our starters and just keep fighting.

You have a talented stable of running backs. How do you all stay happy?

Kemp: It’s all about winning when it comes to me. Whenever you get your opportunity, you’ve just got to make the best of it. Obviously, we can’t give all of us the ball at one time – that would be a nice play, but it can’t work. You just stay ready; you never know when your number is going to be called, and when you get the ball in your hands, you just have to make the most of the opportunity.

Photo by VICTORIA GRAFF