Last night (Friday), Drew Barker threw for 296 yards and 3 touchdowns in a win over Scott HS. Two of those three went for over 50 yards. He also ran for another touchdown. Mark Stoops and Neal Brown were there to see the action. It has been reported that the Army All-American Bowl was supposed to be in attendance for their official invitation to Barker to play on January 4th.
Some historical context before I discuss how Drew Barker has become our most important recruit. If not the most important, he is the most influential.
Bill Curry came to Kentucky from the University of Alabama. UK fans were just as excited as they were when Mark Stoops was hired. Alabama fans were just as excited because he left Alabama. During his three years there, he posted some decent records, but he couldn't beat Auburn and his bowl record of 1-2 did not meet Alabama standards or Tide fan expectations.
According to Wikipedia, in early 1990, Curry received a contract which contained provisions he disliked, including no raise and removal of his power to hire and fire assistants. Curry was particularly upset by this since he'd led the Tide to its first SEC title since the Bryant era. He responded by accepting a job offer to become the head coach at the University of Kentucky.
At Kentucky, Curry went through 3 offensive coordinators. Tommy Bowden left for Auburn after Curry's first year, Daryl Dickey was hired after Bowden left, and Curry hired Colorado OC Elliot Uzelac for his final two seasons. Under Uzelac's offense, Kentucky suffered through two consecutive 4-7 seasons. Just for the record, Mitch Barnhart took action much sooner for poor coaching than C.M. Newton did. Curry lasted seven years. His best record was 6-6 in 1993. Joker Phillips lasted three years with his best record of 6-7 in his first year (2010).
Tim Couch spent most of his freshman year as a red shirt under Bill Curry in a Uzelac offense which was led by the gutsy Billy Jack Haskins. If you'll recall, the fans clamored for Curry to "Turn the Deuce Loose!!!" That prompted Athletic Director C.M. Newton to suggest that if UK fans didn't like the way Curry was running things, then maybe they ought to go cheer for another team.
Many fans believed that Curry broke Couch's red shirt out of spite in the middle of the season. Billy Jack Haskins wasn't the problem. It was Uzelac's offense. Curry was fired after the Cats went 1-6 in their first seven games. The Cats had just lost to LSU 41-14. The only win at the time was the 3-0 victory over Indiana which many fans still believe was UK's worst win on record.
The greatness of Tim Couch was shown under Hal Mumme's Air Raid offense. In his first game under Mumme, Couch led the Cats to a 38-24 win over Louisville. The next two years saw Kentucky leading the nation in several offensive categories, with Couch setting SEC and NCAA records. His career at Kentucky ended early with a selection as the number one player in the NFL Draft at the end of his junior year.
No one knows how Drew Barker will compare with the great Tim Couch. That remains to be seen. Barker's commitment, however, had the same effect as Couch's decision to play for the home-state school. Barker's commitment may have a bigger impact on the future of Kentucky football. (Couch's career at Kentucky had an influence on Barker's decision.) He decided to become a home-grown hero like Couch.
What differentiates Barker's commitment from Couch's is the world we live in today. There was no Facebook or Twitter when Couch came on board. No one ever heard of "Social Media." Barker is making positive use of both and is a primary influence on the other recruits Stoops & Company are bringing in the door. Here's what he had to say after our loss to Mississippi State.
Keep Calm. Everyone has to realize that we have made steady improvements every game all year. "It's a marathon not a sprint.." We will get there! Also to all of the negative fans.. "If you are absent during our struggle, don't expect to be present during our success.."
This young man shows leadership that Couch didn't have the same opportunity to show. Here's how:
He has developed close relationships with UK targets through twitter. He has a diary that's available over at Kentucky Sports Radio. He created a Twitter account for the Kentucky commitments to use in contacting and talking with other UK recruits and fans. By doing so, he's established his leadership abilities which should carry over into to practice and on the field of play, even if he red shirts his first year.
A redshirt may not happen. He may come in a 2014 freshman and win the starting spot. He's been accepted for enrollment in January. This coaching staff will put the best player on the field and Barker could very well be the guy. Statistically, Barker isn't the best passer in Kentucky. He currently ranks second behind Sr. Drew Houliston (Highlands) and just ahead of Sr. Brenan Kuntz (Simon Kenton). Plus, he has Soph. Kyle Fieger (Beechwood) close behind. Here's their passing efficiency ratings from the Cincinnati Enquirer as of October 20th.
What separates these four players on the recruiting trail? You can't find Houliston in the Rivals database. You can't find Fieger either, although he is only a sophomore. Kuntz is unrated and unranked and has no offers yet according to Rivals. Barker holds offers from Kentucky, South Carolina, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Miami (FL), Mississippi, North Carolina, Purdue, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, WKU and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Barker's Connor High School team has never beaten Simon Kenton while Kuntz has played there. There is a difference, however, in the size of the schools. Simon Kenton is a 6-A school while Connor is a 5-A school. In theory, a 6-A school should always beat a 5-A school because the 6-A school should have a larger talent pool to draw from. Beechwood is a 1-A school and Highlands is a 4-A school.
The above question as to what separates Barker from the others is a legitimate question and deserves an answer that can benefit the sophomore from Beechwood more than the other two: Off-season activities.
Barker has always been active in off-season football activities. He tried out for the Elite 11 and received an invitation to Nike's The Opening and the Elite 11 competition which was comprised of only 18 competitors. Trent Dilfer and his staff rated Barker as the 7th best of the Elite 11. Baker also went to some Rivals camps to get his name in the recruiting world. Kuntz played AAU basketball in the off-season. I don't know what the other two quarterbacks did over the summer. I am sure all four will eventually land some offers, but Fieger has some time to get some name recognition and some major college offers. If he is serious about football, he should follow Barker's footsteps.
If Barker can perform like Tim Couch, Dusty Bonner, Jared Lorenzen, Andre Woodson or Mike Hartline(in his senior season), we've got ourselves an SEC level quarterback. Couch took us to 7-5 (4 SEC wins) including the Outback Bowl in 1998; Bonner had a 6-6 record in 1999 (4 SEC wins) including the Music City Bowl, Lorenzen took us to a 7-5 record in 2002 (3 SEC wins); Woodson took us to a 8-5 record in 2006 (4 SEC Wins) including the Music City Bowl and an 8-5 record in 2007 (3 SEC wins) including the Music City Bowl; Hartline took the Cats to a 6-6 record (2 SEC wins) in 2010 before his misbehavior kept him from the BBVA Compass Bowl which ended the season at 6-7.
The question for our readers, then, is Drew Barker our most important recruit ever? With his January enrollment coming up, do you think he will break into the starting position before or during the 2014 season?
What say you?
Bill Curry - Wikipedia
UK 2012 Media Guide page 192 - UK Athletics
The Drew Barker Diary - KSR