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UK QB Drew Barker out for ‘significant amount of time,’ Johnson to start against Gamecocks

By Keith Taylor
KyForward senior sports writer

Kentucky will be without its starting quarterback for at least a month, maybe longer, coach Mark Stoops said Wednesday.

Drew Barker, who started the first three games and left after the first series in the Wildcats’ 62-42 rout of New Mexico State last week, is out because of an injured back, Stoops said. Stoops said Barker met with a specialist this week and added his injured back does not require surgery.

 Drew Barker (7) will miss the next four to five weeks, while backup Stephen Johnson (15) will take over in his absence starting this week against South Carolina (Keith Taylor Photo)

Drew Barker (7) will miss the next four to five weeks, while backup Stephen Johnson (15) will take over in his absence starting this week against South Carolina (Keith Taylor Photo)

“He will be out for a significant amount of time,” Stoops said. “I have no idea how long that’ll be. When I say significant, he’s out for the foreseeable future, the next two, three, four weeks. After that, we’ll re-evaluate him and see where he’s at.”

In three games this season, Barker has thrown for 334 yards, four touchdowns and interceptions. His best outing was against Southern Mississippi in the opener, where he threw for 364 yards and a touchdown. He struggled in a 45-7 loss at Florida, where his back problems escalated after dealing with lingering issues last summer.

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Stoops said Barker is “disappointed as you could imagine” and the Kentucky coach is equally disappointed in the timing of the injury.

“He’s worked extremely hard,” Stoops said. “I really feel for him because he’s put a lot of time and energy and work to get in this position. And uh, so that’s tough on him. He did do some very good things in Game 1, in Game 2 he got hit early, and that hit bothered him. He’s not one, and we’re not one to make an excuse for him, but it’s a fact. It’s a legitimate serious injury.”

Backup Stephen Johnson will replace Barker on the team’s depth chart and will make his first start against South Carolina Saturday. In the win over the Aggies last week, Johnson, a junior college transfer, threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns and added 51 yards rushing.

“We knew he was a good player, but I didn’t know he’d have that kind of game, with those kinds of numbers,” Stoops said. “You take away that first series and he was absolutely remarkable. So let’s hope he can keep that going. Either way, if he’s not perfect, we know he’ll keep his poise and operate this offense and move the offense. We have a lot of confidence in him.”

As for a backup plan this week, Stoops said freshman signal caller Gunnar Hoak is taking Johnson’s spot in the rotation and is listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.

“Gunnar is preparing to play. Just like Stephen (Johnson) always prepared as the backup, he would as well,” Stoops said. “Gunnar will prepare to be the backup quarterback. If Stephen goes down, Gunnar will go in.”

Gametracker: South Carolina at Kentucky, 7:30 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, 98.1 FM WKYN.

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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