Over the past decade or so, Kentucky has continually struggled to find consistency in their quarterback. And, in the process, it’s actually hurt the position. What is usually regarded as the “star” position of the team can quickly become forgettable when the starting spot acts like a revolving door.
Last season, Stephen Johnson was The Guy for Kentucky. He proved time and time again he was the right person for the job. And even so, there was constantly call from a small group of fans to put in the backup QB, Drew Barker. As someone who was a fierce Team SJ member, I was frustrated with this part of our fan base. How could they want to put in Barker when Johnson was clearly the team’s best option?
But then, I started to consider the precedent set by the program. And it’s not just been happening recently – it dates all the way back to the Rich Brooks era. For the past decade – and maybe even longer – there has been drama surrounding Kentucky’s starting quarterback. Sometimes it’s all-consuming in the preseason, while other times it lingers all the way to a bowl game. And, yes, injuries happen and sometimes the back-up ends up being better than expected, but a history of competition and controversy at the position has led to a long list of "forgotten" quarterbacks.
Do you remember every quarterback that’s put on the jersey and earned playing time in Commonwealth Stadium?
Sure, you remember the “big” names of recent years: Stephen Johnson, Drew Barker, Patrick Towles. And now, Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak. And of course you remember the more legendary QBs: Tim Couch, Andre Woodson and now, Stephen Johnson.
But what about Jalen Whitlow
? He competed against Towles in 2012, and he started in 15 games for the Wildcats before transferring to Eastern Illinois as a junior.
What about Reese Phillips
? He announced he would transfer to Montana roughly a month after Towles announced he would transfer to Boston College.
Surely you remember Matt Roark
? Back in 2011, the wide receiver was moved to QB after both UK quarterbacks were sidelined with injuries, and he ended the 26-year losing streak to Tennessee.
Who could forget the drama surrounding Mike Hartline
? A torn MCL one season and an arrest for public intoxication and disorderly conduct the next led to Morgan Newton earning, then losing, then re-earning the starting spot.
What about Will Fidler
? He also competed against Hartline and appeared in nine games during 2008 and ’09 seasons, but he decided to forgo his senior season.
What about Curtis Pulley
? The Hopkinsville native was named Kentucky's Mr. Football in 2004, and he served as Andre Woodson's backup in 2006. After a short stint at wide receiver and a redshirt season, Pulley was dismissed from the team following a marijuana citation and an arrest for traffic charges.
What about Maxwell Smith
(who transferred to play at San Diego State as a graduate), Ryan Mossakowski
(who transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College) or Matt Lentz
(who was recruited as a quarterback but never actually played that position)… do you see what I’m getting at here? Obviously this list is not inclusive of every player who's put on the jersey and played QB for Kentucky, but you get the point.
Let’s not forget even Randall Cobb
played half a season at the starting position before being moved to wide receiver for his sophomore season.
The quarterback culture at Kentucky is one of trial-and-error. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. But what I'm getting at here is even though there have been big moments, important wins and off-the-field controversies, Kentucky's quarterback position belongs to five memorable (and consistent) names: Tim Couch, Freddie Maggard, Jared Lorenzen, Andre Woodson and Stephen Johnson
Will we add another name to that list this season? With the competition between Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak still underway, plus wildcard Danny Clark, we seem to be in the same situation as we have been in so many years before. Who is going to step up and be the team's one
consistent quarterback this year? Only time will tell.