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Keith Taylor: Calm and confident, UK quarterback Drew Barker ready to guide pro-style offense

Drew Barker isn’t uptight going into fall camp. In fact, the Conner High School graduate has been “calm” and “confident” this summer, an early sign he’s not backing away from the expectations as Kentucky’s starting quarterback.

“I see a calmness about him,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said during the team’s annual Media Day Friday. “He’s done that way all through spring. He was that way when he was in the competition for another position at the beginning of spring. He was calm and confident. He’s done that all summer. We have higher expectations. He has higher expectations than being the starting quarterback here. He wants to be the starting quarterback and produce and make plays and help lead us. I see a calmness about him and a confidence about him. That’s just part of the process.”

 Drew Barker is ready to lead Kentucky back to the postseason (Keith Taylor Photo)

Drew Barker is ready to lead Kentucky back to the postseason (Keith Taylor Photo)

Barker said the “calm and confident” label suits him well but knows he will have to elevate his leadership skills on and off the field once the season begins.

“I’ve always been kind of a calm person,” Barker said. “I haven’t gotten too up or too down and I’m not really an emotional person. I can see that, but sometimes you have to kick it up into a different gear. That’s something I have been working on for sure.”

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran added it’s not part of Barker’s job to carry pom poms and keep the team upbeat on a daily basis.

“I don’t need a cheerleader,” he said. “I just need somebody that when he talks, people listen. He can do that in practice without being a cheerleader. My point was that from Sunday through Friday, is to stress our offense as much as we can, so on Saturday it’s easier. They’re going to see somebody that doesn’t get too high or too low. I’ve got to figure out how to get him in rhythm when he’s not in rhythm. I’ve got to spend my time doing that, not being a cheerleader. That’s how I’ve done it and it’s worked well.”

A backup in Kentucky’s first 10 games last year, Barker started the last two games and won the starting job during spring drills. During the off-season, Barker progressed and stayed a step ahead in his quest to remain the team’s starting quarterback.

Although an instate product, Stoops said Barker doesn’t want to be labeled as a savior.

“I don’t think he wants that label,” Stoops said. “He wants to be labeled as a quality football player, as a quarterback that’s going to lead this team. I think he’s ready to do that.”

Barker is so far ahead of the game, the coaching staff considers him a coach on the field. In his three years with the Wildcats, Barker has played for a trio of offensive coordinators, an experience he considers a blessing rather than a curse.

“I’ve seen a lot of a people, I’ve had three different (offensive) coaches since I’ve been here, leadership styles and coaching styles. I feel like that’s helped me a lot as well as seeing a lot of different players come through this program.”

Barker added that Gran’s offense gives him more responsibility, especially at the line of scrimmage. Barker is a big fan of Gran’s pro-style attack and added there’s a lot of “command” on the quarterback.

“We’re calling the protections at the line and I’ve never done that with any other coach,” Barker said. “It’s really cool and we’re in control.”

Since fall camp began Thursday, Barker hasn’t been wasting any time preparing for the upcoming season and is anxious for practice to get into full swing.

“We have 21 days to get better,” Barker said. “I’m looking forward to getting back out there and getting the ball flying around again.”

Barker said his goal is to lead the Wildcats to “a lot of wins” and says anything short of reaching a bowl game will be considered a disappointment.

“We’re going to do our best to get as many wins as we can,” he said. “Obviously, a bowl game is one of our main goals. If we do all of the things I know we’re capable of (we will get to a bowl game). I can’t wait. I’m excited to go out and play football again.”

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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