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“Explosive” Terry Wilson named Kentucky’s starting quarterback for opening game

Terry Wilson (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Whatever junior college transfer Terry Wilson did in Kentucky’s final scrimmage, it was enough to make him the starting quarterback when UK opens the season Saturday afternoon against Central Michigan.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops told Wilson and Gunnar Hoak, both sophomores, last Friday that he was going to evaluate what he had seen from their preseason competition and then make a decision. Sunday he talked to both quarterbacks “face to face” and told them Wilson would be the starter.

“I have great respect for all of our quarterbacks. I feel like we have a great quarterback room. With the other quarterbacks, with Gunnar and Danny (Clark) in particular, they’ve put up a great fight and they’ve done a lot of things in a lot of ways to win the job as well,” Stoops said Monday.

“Ultimately with all the things that we looked at we decided on Terry, and we’re excited about Terry and what he’s going to do this week. I’d like to thank all those guys and those guys have been unbelievable teammates and unbelievable competitors, so that’s where it stands right now.”

Wilson is reported to be one of the fastest players at UK and his running ability when plays break down was his supposed edge going into preseason practice. However, those who have watched practice have also said he’s been a better passer than anticipated.

Stoops would not elaborate on what separated Wilson because he did not want to be negative about his other quarterbacks.

“I have a lot of respect for our players and what they’ve done. But there’s a lot of things that we look at. We look at targets, accuracy, decision making, yards, leadership. There’s many things we look at, and we’re very excited about Terry. Again, we have a lot of confidence in the other guys at well,” Stoops said.

Stoops once indicated both Wilson and Hoak would play in games early in the season no matter who won the job. He backed off that Monday. Instead, he said he didn’t know what might play out.

“Those players understand that. I’d like both guys to play. I think both guys have earned the right to get the opportunity to play, but you understand and I understand and they understand that sometimes that’s not a possibility. So we’ll see,” Stoops said.

“I’ve also been very loyal to the starting quarterbacks here. They have not been on a short leash, and we’ve been very supportive of that until it gets to a point where we absolutely have to make a change or take another look. So I want to be loyal to the starting quarterback and give him every opportunity and not have him looking over his shoulder as well.”

Stoops called Wilson an “athletic guy” who now has to show he can do in games what he’s shown coaches he can do in practice.

“You watch football and you start to see guys pull it down and run, and not get too antsy. Play within the offense but then in the right moments pulling it down, scrambling to buy time to throw the ball, scrambling to make yards. He’s a dynamic guy but we haven’t seen him full go because he has not been live since he’s been here,” Stoops said.

“Kind of interested to see how the year goes myself. See what he can kick that thing out to and how fast he can run when it’s in the open field. He’s definitely an explosive guy, but it’s not about that. It wasn’t about just the legs. That’s always a piece of it but it’s about operating within the offense.”

 

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  1. I do hope his accuracy has improved because if he is still a 56% passer like he was in JC, UK will not be going to a bowl. I don’t care how fast he is, if he cannot pass, they become very 1 dimensional and much easier to stop.

  2. I kind of felt in my gut it would be Wilson with this bunch of coaches.. Gunnar has paid his dues, and I hope he sees playing time this year. As usual Stoops was not clear on that. I hope the offense clicks. I wish Wilson much success. Sounds like, if you can believe Stoops, he won the start fair and square.

  3. I do believe Coach Stoops, primarily because it is in his interest to give this team the best possible chance to win games, and if he believed Hoak gave this team the best chance to win, Hoak would be the QB named instead of Wilson.

    It takes so much more than a QB to win at this level. An O-line that can open gaps and protect a passer, running backs that can hit those gaps quickly, with power and speed, and receivers that will catch the catchable passes that come in their direction. When these parts are lacking, the results are lacking and the QB gets the blame. When these parts are present, the results are good and the QB gets the credit.

    As for Hoak, he has just become the most popular man on UK’s campus, the back up QB, everyone’s savior. He will get his chance somewhere along the line, just as Stephen Johnson did 2 years ago..

    1. If Wilson can be accurate and hit open receivers, and complete passes, move the chains, and throw TD passes, then with his running ability he was the right choice. All we can do as fans is accept the Coach’s call here. That said, I don’t think there is a QB on this team that knows this offense better than Gunnar. When the bullets start flying Saturday we shall see if the choice was a good one or not. I hope he lights it up.

  4. Gunnar may have been beaten fair and square, I don’t know because I did not see the practices. However, Gunnar was beaten out last year, not this year. When Stoops refused to ever give Gunnar live game experience all those times when Johnson was hurt last year, Stoops put his team in the position of no experience at QB for this year. That was a coaches choice, but it just may have cost Gunnar the opportunity to start this year.
    My prediction: If Stoops stays with Wilson, no matter what and even through injuries like he did with Johnson last year, Gunnar will be on a new team come next fall.

  5. I think Old Fan’s observation about Hoak’s lack of game experience is on the mark, and while Coach Stoops wants to keep his options open with respect to playing both QBs this season, he was unable to say that in public yesterday at his press conference.

    Just 2 or 3 years ago, it seemed as though UK football was sitting in a good position with a stable full of young, capable quarterbacks, with a recruiting pipeline stocked to supply the need for years to come, but this program has found itself needing back to back JC transfers to fill its QB needs on the field.

    Injuries, and lack of playing time (read as lack of opportunity) have depleted the QB coffers.

    1. UK has plenty of capable QB’s if you listen to Stoops. That said, it could be argued, I suppose, that Hinshaw and Gran are not doing so well at developing QB’s at UK. Something is off schedule, IMO, based on the JC pipeline that now seems to be in place at UK. Another JC transfer QB under center as the starter, all while a guy like Hoak, who has been in the system for two years, but has not seen a single game snap that I can recall. He has had a couple of good showings at spring games too, and apparently it was close between the two at fall camp 2018. Look, I will defer to the coaches here who has seen them both at practice, but I do feel for Hoak. I can see a transfer coming if he don’t see some playing time soon.

  6. If I were Hoak, I would be furious. I don’t see where Gran and Hinshaw are doing anything to develop their qbs. Johnson was great his first year with the deep ball, but in 2 years, he never learned to connect on the short pass with any consistency and last year, they seldom used the deep pass. They talked last year how close it was between Hoak and Johnson and that Hoak was really improving, but they never had the faith in him to put him in a game even when they where getting destroyed. Those decisions by Stoops, Gran, and Hinshaw have really hurt Hoak. Because of their lack of development and faith in my ability, if I were Hoak, I would be gone before Saturday.

    1. Also, add to the mix the 2019 commitment of Nick Scalzo, should he sign, a dual threat QB out of Florida that he will have to compete against for future playing time down the road.

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