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Keith Taylor: Drew Barker doesn’t plan to change his approach as UK’s starting quarterback

Drew Barker won’t spend his summer trying to figure out how to beat out an incumbent quarterback.

Moments after he helped lead the Blue team to a 31-20 win over the White squad in the annual spring game Saturday, Barker was named the team’s starter, eliminating the possibility of a quarterback controversy next fall.

 Drew Barker looks for an open receiver in UK's Blue-White game Saturday (Bill Thiry Photo)

Drew Barker looks for an open receiver in UK’s Blue-White game Saturday (Bill Thiry Photo)

Barker was getting a push from junior college transfer Stephen Johnson for most of the spring and won the job outright with consistency.

“He will be the starting quarterback right now,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “He came out of spring (workouts) as the No. 1 quarterback.”

Facing Kentucky’s second-string defense, Barker completed 12-of-18 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yard touchdown strike to Ryan Timmons. Barker’s lone mistake was an interception in the second quarter, but he bounced back and threw a touchdown on the next possession.

“That was a bad throw (and) it was just a bad read,” Barker said. “Right when I threw it I knew it was probably going to get intercepted so I would definitely like to have that one back. There’s probably a couple of throws I would like to have back,”

Barker’s ability to bounce back after making a mistake and adapting the “white piece of paper mentality” is a big reason Barker overcame a challenge from Johnson, especially during the final week of spring practice.

“You just have to flip the page and keep going,” Barker said. “I mean, I was mad at myself for doing that because right when I threw it I knew it was going be a bad pass, but I just flipped the page and I think the two-minute drill helped and so I just tried to build off that. And we ended up with a touchdown, so that’s good.”

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said Barker’s quick decision-making skills in the pocket also gave him the nod over Johnson and the team’s other quarterback contenders during the past month.

“(He’s gotten better at) his decision-making and target throws,” Gran said. “He had good decision-making (in the spring game. He got it off quick and knew where to go with the ball. As a quarterback, you have to be able to do that and that’s what he has done the most (during the spring).”

In addition to adapting to Gran’s offensive schemes, Barker credited co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw for his development over the course of spring workouts. He also added the experience of starting the final two games last season gave him the confidence he needed to land the starting job.

“I feel like I’ve been a lot more comfortable in the pocket due to coach Hinshaw – the footwork drills, and everything that he has taught us,” Barker said. “feel like that has been a big improvement for me from last year. I guess the game is kind of slowed down a little bit. I think the experience I got, the little bit of experience I got last year kind of helped me and is going to help me in the future.”

In order to keep his job, Stoops said Barker can’t look back and keep looking forward.

“He needs to continue to stay the course and stay consistent with his approach in just the way he’s handling everything off the field, academically, being a leader of this team and the offense,” the Kentucky coach said.

Now that he’s won the starting job earlier than any other quarterback in Stoops’ tenure at Kentucky, Barker doesn’t plan on changing his approach.

“I’m not going to treat it any differently,” he said. “I’ve just been going in on off days, watching film and then coming out to practice. Just have to keep doing that consistently. Have to get everybody on the same page, get everybody doing that. The summer is going to be big, but I mean the season is just now starting. We have a good starting point. It’s going to be a big summer for us.

“I just have to keep my foot on the gas and keep going.”

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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