Offseason spotlight: Kentucky

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
2:00
PM ET
The Wildcats have seven early enrollees from the 2014 signing class on campus, and one in particular will be under the microscope.

Spotlight: Quarterback Drew Barker, 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, true freshman

[+] EnlargeDrew Barker
Tom Hauck for Student SportsESPN 300 QB Drew Barker enrolled early and will be given every shot to be the Kentucky starter.
2013 summary: Barker passed for 2,671 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Conner High in Hebron, Ky., and graduated high school early so that he could enroll in January at Kentucky. He was an ESPN 300 prospect and ranked as the No. 9 quarterback nationally among pocket passers.

The skinny: It's never fair to expect a true freshman to come in at quarterback and save the day in the SEC, and nobody at Kentucky is expecting that from Barker. But he will get every chance to win the job, especially since he's an early enrollee and will go through spring practice. The Wildcats scored an SEC-low 118 points in their eight league games last season and need to find more pop, period, on offense. Barker has a big-time arm, and everybody who recruited him fell in love with his work ethic and leadership skills. You can bet that his older teammates will be watching closely this offseason to see how he handles everything and the manner in which he competes. Junior Jalen Whitlow isn't just going to hand over the starting job and has the edge in experience. With Maxwell Smith recovering from shoulder surgery, it's likely a two-man race between Barker and Whitlow. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has been careful not to put too much pressure on Barker. After all, it doesn't matter who lines up next season at quarterback for the Wildcats if they don't play better around him, which includes protecting the passer with more consistency and making more big plays. Still, it's clear that Stoops and the Kentucky offensive coaches think they have a gem in Barker, and the future is now for him.

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Chris Low | email

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