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.”