It’s tough for any college football program to avoid the discussion regarding its starting quarterback when a senior leaves the program and Mark Stoops’ Kentucky program is no different. Following the graduation of the highly productive Stephen Johnson, the Wildcats are currently searching for his heir apparent.
During his Tuesday appearance on Birmingham-based WJOX 94.5 FM radio program 3 Man Front, one of the first questions posed to Stoops regarded his next starting quarterback. To no surprise, Stoops failed to deliver any concrete answer at this time but did remark how well he liked his options under center heading into fall camp.
“You know the answer, we’ll see. We have a long way to go, I like our options. I feel really good about both of those guys and they’ve worked really hard,” Stoops said on the air. “Another guy is (third-string QB) Danny Clark who was very productive in the spring, so we’ll see where it goes. Gunnar (Hoak) and Terry (Wilson) both have some good qualities, look very calm back there and make good decisions and get better with every opportunity. I don’t feel any need to rush that decision. We’ll see how it goes this fall.”
Shifting away from the ongoing competition at quarterback, Stoops was asked about his potential preseason All-American at linebacker, Josh Allen.
“Josh, I expect him to be, if not the top, one of the top outside ‘backers in the country,” Stoops remarked. “He’s a difference maker, he’s a guy that does a lot of things well. He’s good on his feet, he has good instincts and drops and leverage, playing pass defense but he’s also a dynamic pass rusher. He’s good in the run game. Josh really is the whole package and we are excited about his senior year.”
Allen isn’t alone as a potentially elite defensive option for the Wildcats as safety Mike Edwards also returns for Kentucky. It didn’t take Stoops long before he mentioned his star defensive back.
“Mike Edwards has been around a long time, played a lot of football and he came back as well,” he said. “He’s changing his body and physically is in great shape. Excited about those two guys heading up our defense.”
When asked what questions he still has about his team heading into the fall, Stoops touched on two areas of his program that need to improve in order for Kentucky to take another step forward under the sixth-year coach.
“We have some very good football players with some experience coming back defensively and we need to make a big jump there because we have some personnel to do that,” Stoops continued. “We have some experience, now we are getting some decent depth, so I feel like defensively we need to make a big jump — as far as being more consistent. We’ve shown flashes and done good things at times but across the board, I’d like to see consistency there.
“Offensively, we are a physical football team and with Benny (Snell) running the ball and a physical offensive line and very good tight ends, we can run the ball and we are physical. We need some playmakers and obviously quarterback play — you’ve got to have great quarterback play. That will sort its way out, I like our options there, but also playmaking ability. Dorian Baker comes back, he missed all of last year which really hurt us. We had to redshirt him, so he’ll be a (redshirt) senior. Hopefully, he’ll give us some playmaking ability at wide receiver because we need that.”
If those issues are worked out and the returning players continue to progress, it’s not out of the question for Kentucky to contend in the East this season. With a Week 2 trip to Gainesville looming early, Stoops and his program have an opportunity to state their case as a legitimate threat in the East early on getting into the heart of their SEC schedule.