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Kentucky Wildcats QB update: Drew Barker still out; Stephen Johnson working to improve

Barker isn’t making much progress, but Johnson has used the bye week to help focus for the upcoming must-win games.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

It appears as though nothing has changed in the Kentucky quarterback situation. Drew Barker hasn’t really made progress, according to Mark Stoops, so for the time being Stephen Johnson is still the starter.

When asked to give an update on Barker today, Stoops didn’t have a lot to say.

“The update is, it’s about the same. No big jump one way or the other,” Stoops said.

While there hasn’t been much progress in Barker’s recovery, Stoops wasn’t ready to rule Barker out for the year.

“I’m not going to rule it out yet,” Stoops said. “Not ready to make that decision - or, the doctors aren’t ready to make that decision.”

Meanwhile, Johnson used his time on the bye week to relax a bit and calm himself. Following a rough game against Alabama and a game against Vanderbilt in which he only completed 47% of his passes, Johnson needed a break. According to Stoops, the bye week was good for Johnson.

“He looked good. He looked sharp,” Stoops said. “Mentally he had a weekend to decompress for a moment, take a step back and recharge a little bit.”

Stoops believes Johnson is getting more comfortable on the field now that he’s gotten a few starts.

“Comfort level is a big part of it. You’re more comfortable when you’re staying ahead of the chains and your offense is hitting on all cylinders,” Stoops said. “Some of it will be an easy fix; just having the comfort level and experience. Some of it we’ll continue to work on.”

Stoops also pointed out that he was confident in Johnson being the starter with Barker out. He pointed out that he’s 3-1 as a starter and has made some critical plays to help Kentucky win games.

While Barker has been sidelined, he’s still been positive and supportive of Johnson, according to Stoops.

“He’s been very supportive and he helps any way he can. I’ve been proud of him that way. It’s hard, he’s worked hard to get in the position he did and it was a very quick start. I don’t know how the ending is going to go and I don’t think he does, but he’s doing everything he can to help and I appreciate that,” Stoops said.

It certainly is a tough position that Barker is in. At the start of the season we thought Barker would be Kentucky’s quarterback savior, and all that hype disappeared in a matter of weeks. Now he’s sidelined with an injury, watching Johnson hold his own under center. The fact that he’s helping out is great for both quarterbacks, and it’s probably helping Johnson develop well and get more comfortable.

While it’s tough to have the Week 1 starter out at this critical point of the season, Johnson has done his job and won the games he was expected to win. Now he has to continue growing and getting the job done as Kentucky is coming up on multiple must-win games.