Next week, all eyes in the Bluegrass will be on 2014 quarterback Drew Barker as he announces his college decision. Barker has not only become a household name, but the dual threat quarterback, an in-state star, is also the apple of the Kentucky football coaching staff's eye. Mark Stoops, Neal Brown and company have made no secret about how much they covet Barker, hoping to use him as a centerpiece to build the rest of the 2014 class around. The letters and attention by the staff toward Barker have been documented both publicly and privately.
Barker knows he is wanted by the Kentucky football staff... But that hasn't always been the case with Kentucky, his home state's school.
When Joker Phillips was the head coach at Kentucky last summer, Drew Barker attended UK camp. After performing well, he was told to get in touch with the staff a few days later. Barker had high hopes after a strong showing that when he called Phillips, an offer might be forthcoming-- or at least a strong interest. Mike Fields of the Herald Leader got some great quotes from Barker about what transpired on that phone call.
"So I called them...But when I talked to them, they were like 'So, have you been to any camps recently?' I was like, 'Oh man, I was just at your camp and you didn't even know I was there!' It was kind of funny, but that's when I cut it off. I was done with UK."
My how the times have changed. Enter Mark Stoops. Since Stoops' arrival, the mutual interest between Kentucky and Barker is at an all-time high. UK offered a scholarship almost immediately and so began the continual dedication of time to building a relationship with Barker. Barker's father, Terry, has been impressed with the Kentucky staff so far.
"We were raised as Kentucky fans. I love the Big Blue Nation," he said. "So it hurt Drew a little bit when the previous regime didn't want him. I guess Coach Stoops and the rest of his coaches knew Drew had kind of a sour taste in his mouth after that, so they've gone the extra mile to show how much they'd love to have him. I think that's really resonated with Drew. He really appreciates that."
Kentucky may have had some ground to make up with Barker thanks to the previous coaching staff, but the staff has done its best to mend the fences. We will all find out on May 10th if Barker will be poised to put on the blue and white... something that seemed impossible just a year ago.