Barker to Miss 'Significant' Time with Injury
Drew Barker, the sophomore quarterback who won the starting job this spring, will be out of action for an indefinite period, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops announced on Wednesday.
“The bottom line is Drew will be out,” Stoops said. “He has an injury that does not require surgery at this point in time, and he will be out for a significant amount of time.”
The news comes after Barker visited a specialist to gain further insight into a back injury that first flared up this summer. The injury was aggravated both by a hit Barker took at Florida and another sustained on the opening series of Saturday’s win over New Mexico State, Barker’s last before departing the game.
Rest, according to doctors, is the best course of action in Barker’s recovery. That’s what he’ll do for at least the next three weeks before he’s evaluated again.
“His mother, his father, Drew, Jim Madaleno and our doctors are all on the same page, and they believe the best treatment is rest right now and some treatment, and the best idea for him is non-operative at this point in time,” Stoops said. “If that changes, I’ll let you know. When he gets back out on the field, I’ll let you know. But he is out for a significant amount of time.”
For the season, Barker has completed 18-of-36 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns against five interceptions. Barker’s season started with a dazzling first half against Southern Miss, proof of the hard work the Burlington, Ky., had done to grab hold of his starting position.
“He’s worked extremely hard,” Stoops said. “I really feel for him because he’s put a lot of time and energy and work to get in this position.”
At Florida, Barker struggled, but Stoops believes that can be attributed in large part to his injury.
“He did do some very good things in Game 1, in Game 2 he got hit early, and that hit bothered him,” Stoops said. “He’s not one, and we’re not one to make an excuse for him, but it’s a fact. It’s a legitimate serious injury. He’s not just a quarterback who took a shot. I don’t know if that gave him the injury, but it certainly bothered him after that and probably was a big part of the reason why he played the way he did.”
UK now turns to Stephen Johnson II, the backup who more than capably stepped behind center on Saturday. The first-year junior college transfer was outstanding in relief against NMSU, leading UK to a 62-42 win in which the Wildcats piled up the second-most yards in a single game in school history (692). Johnson completed 17-of-22 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the game, adding 51 yards on 10 carries.
“We knew he was a good player, but I didn’t know he’d have that kind of game with those kind of numbers,” Stoops said. “You take away that first series and he was absolutely remarkable. So let’s hope he can keep that going. Either way, if he’s not perfect, we know he’ll keep his poise and operate this offense and move the offense. We have a lot of confidence in him.”
True freshman Gunnar Hoak – a redshirt candidate prior to Barker’s injury – will be Johnson’s backup.
“Gunnar is preparing to play,” Stoops said. “Just like Stephen always prepared as the backup, he would as well. Gunnar will prepare to be the backup quarterback. If Stephen goes down, Gunnar will go in. And Luke (Wright) will be available as well.”