UK FOOTBALL | Drew Barker leaving the past behind, preparing for collegiate debut vs. EKU
09/30/2015 09:58 PM
LEXINGTON — Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker is back in the local headlines, but this time, it’s without controversy.
UK’s coaching staff expects the redshirt freshman to take the first snaps of his collegiate career on Saturday when the Wildcats face in-state foe Eastern Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium.
I’m just looking forward to the opportunity, really,” Barker said after Tuesday night’s practice. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for our team to go out there and try to get our fourth win.”
Barker arrived at Kentucky in 2014 as a heralded 4-star recruit from Connor Senior High School in Burlington but redshirted his first season behind starter Patrick Towles. Both quarterbacks split practice reps in the spring and fall while battling for the starting job before Towles regained the position during fall camp.
“[The coaches] tell me every week to prepare like a starter,” Barker said, “because you never know when your time will be called.”
But despite having never played against EKU, Barker has an unfortunate history with the Colonels after he, sophomore wide receiver Dorian Baker, and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Tymere Dubose were questioned by Richmond police after a January bar fight that sent Colonel offensive lineman Colton Scurry to the hospital.
After the bar fight, Barker was the victim of a second altercation with EKU players when
Colonel defensive lineman Patrick Graffree, a former Kentucky player, entered the lobby of an Eastern Kentucky dorm room and sucker-punched Barker in the back of the head before leaving the area.
Despite Richmond police naming Scurry as the “primary aggressor” at the bar and video surveillance capturing Graffree’s punch on tape, A Madison County grand jury ultimately decided in April not to indict any player from either team involved in the fights.
EKU initially did suspend Scurry and Graffree for their involvements in both incidents before granting both players full reinstatement in July.
Media attention aside, Barker says he’s put the fights — as well as other off-field issues he’s had while at UK — behind him while working with campus resources to move forward with his career.
“I’ve just used a lot of resources on this campus and the football campus, working with a lot of people,” Barker said. “I feel like I’ve taken a major step, and I’ve put it behind me for sure.”
The Kentucky coaching staff admits it’s aware of the extra incentive Barker may have to play against EKU, and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson has no doubts Barker will perform well once out on the field.
“I think he’ll do fine,” Dawson said. “The kid’s been doing good at practice, and we still get him a ton of reps. It’s like I told him every week, he’s one snap away. I have all the trust in the world in that kid, and when he gets in there I think he’ll do well.”
The Wildcats and Colonels kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. It is the first meeting between the in-state schools since 2009 when Kentucky won 37-12 in Lexington.
Click below to watch both Shannon Dawson and Mark Stoops talk about Barker playing vs. EKU as well as KSTV’s discussion on why playing his first game against the Colonels is no coincidence: