For the first time in several years, long-suffering Kentucky football fans have hope for the future. While new head coach Mark Stoops hasn't coached a game yet, his ability to recruit both fans and future players has breathed life into a fan base that all but gave up on former head coach Joker Phillips.
The biggest recruiting victory for Stoops so far came from a prospect in his own backyard. Quarterback Drew Barker committed to the Wildcats in May and has since become a recruiter himself. His commitment generated more excitement around Kentucky than has been there is quite some time, and at Saturday's Elite 11 Camp in Columbus, Barker showed why.
It didn't take long to pick Barker out of the crowd of quarterbacks at yesterday's event. Showing no second thoughts about his decision to attend Kentucky next year, Barker worked out in bright blue UK shorts. Barker, having just completed his junior year of high school, looks like a college football quarterback. He's easily 6'3, stands tall in the huddle, and will easily be able to put on even more muscle when he's in a college strength program without losing any of the mobility that is such a big part of his game.
Working with the same group that had several of the best quarterbacks in it, Barker was one of a handful of that was able to show off his arm strength despite the windy conditions. Barker effortlessly threw the ball, was as accurate as just about anyone (given the conditions), and showed his ability to throw accurately and consistently while rolling or on the run.
It came as no surprise then, that he was selected at the end of the day to go through the Pressure Cooker event. The Pressure Cooker is a rapid-fire test for the best performers of the day that makes the quarterbacks throw different kinds of throws at multiple stations with no stopping in between. Barker performed so well he was given an enthusiastic chest bump from Trent Dilfer.
"It was really cool to have the chance to compete against the best guys from around the country. Guys you only really ever see on the internet or on Twitter," Barker said. "It was cool to get a chance to see where you stand and how you stack up. I just love competing."
Barker added that the biggest thing he'll take away from the Elite 11 camp is his need to improve on footwork. "There's a lot of coaching and coach (Trent) Dilfer and coach (Jordan) Palmer said I have good footwork, but they showed me some little things I can do better heading into my senior year, so that's what I'll take back home with me."
Barker added that his decision to commit to Kentucky won't waver and that he didn't come to the Elite 11 camp to try and earn more offers.
"I'm not looking to get any more offers. I can't wait to get to Kentucky and play for coach Stoops and coach (Neal) Brown."
After performing well on Saturday, Barker waits patiently, hoping for an invitation to the final Elite 11 Camp at the Opening in Oregon.