Could Kentucky's QB scarcity in 2019 turn into an abundance of options in 2020?
The only thing more complicated that Kentucky’s QB situation for 2019 might be the situation for 2020. This year, after a season-ending patellar tendon tear to junior starter Terry Wilson in Week 2, Kentucky went to Sawyer Smith, only to see him sidelined by multiple injuries. Wide receiver Lynn Bowden has become Kentucky’s de facto quarterback for 2019, with Smith taking a handful of snaps in relief. True frosh Nik Scalzo suffered a preseason ACL tear or he might have been part of the puzzle. Sophomore QB Walker Wood and true frosh Amani Gilmore have not seen the field.
But at Saturday’s matchup with Tennessee, Kentucky hosted former Auburn QB Joey Gatewood. Gatewood was a 4-star dual-threat QB who was beaten out in fall camp by Bo Nix for the Auburn starting job. If Kentucky is lucky enough to land Gatewood (he is considering several other schools), he’ll probably ask the NCAA for a waiver to play in 2020.
Which could lead to a 2020 season in which Wilson, then a senior, would be the presumed starter, with Gatewood playing some snaps in relief, if not winning the job outright. Again, Wilson’s injury is serious — the patellar tendon tear is famously one of the most difficult injuries in sports from which to return.
This also would leave Sawyer Smith in the mix as a senior, but given the serious injuries he has suffered and his inability to keep the starting job outright after Wilson’s injury, he’d seem more of a longshot than Wilson or Gatewood. Scalzo should also be healthy by then.
Add to the mix 2020 in-state recruit Beau Allen, whose father played at Kentucky in the 1980s. Allen is a high-3 star recruit who is ranked as the 20th-best pro-style passer in the nation per 247sports.com. While Allen is more of a passing quarterback, he has enough mobility to not be a statue in the pocket.
And then there is still Bowden. Granted, by most measures, the junior isn’t the best passer in the world. For the season, Bowden is 19-for-44 for 213 yards and 1 touchdown in the air. That said, in just over 4 games at quarterback, he has rushed for 712 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s also an All-SEC level wide receiver, as his 109 career catches would attest. Will he end up heading to the NFL? At receiver? Still seeing some time at quarterback?
Much of the situation might sort itself out. Kentucky might not get Gatewood. Certainly, if Mark Stoops heads to Florida State or somewhere else, that would become less likely. Or even if they get him, he might not get the NCAA to sign off on waiving his transfer year. Bowden might go pro or might go back to receiver. In which case, 2020 probably shapes up with Wilson backed up by Smith, Scalzo, Allen and Gilmore, among others. Wilson and Smith would both be seniors, and Walker Wood will either be a junior or possibly give up football following multiple arm injuries.
Or, on the other hand, Gatewood could come and be eligible and Bowden could come back and want at least a few snaps at quarterback (given 2019, you’d think he’d factor into the plan somehow). Kentucky could go from a 2019 season in which they struggled to find any healthy quarterback to having about half a dozen legitimate options next fall. Given the way 2019 has gone, that feels like a problem Kentucky would be glad to have.