By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops isn’t ready to even think about a quarterback controversy one week into his team’s spring practice.
Stephen Johnson took over last season after Drew Barker got hurt and led UK to wins in seven of its final 11 games. He obviously went into spring practice No. 1, especially with Barker coming off offseason back surgery.
“Drew is coming along but he is not yet 100 percent,” Stoops said. “Stephen will be taking most of the snaps with the ones (first unit in spring practice). But Drew is stronger than I anticipated.The way he looks running and moving around, he looks in really good shape. We just don’t want any setbacks for him but pushing him too hard. We have plenty of practices between now and the first game.”
Stoops also expects Johnson, a junior college transfer, to be an improved player in his second full season at Kentucky.
“Just the experience alone will make him better,” Stoops said. “There are so many areas we must improve on and certainly Stephen will. There is probably no one on our team more conscientious than he is. He wants to be perfect and knows one area he must improve on is turnover margin.”
The coach is also not worried about a “sophomore slump” for running back Benny Snell, one of UK’s most pleasant surprises last year when he became one of the best running backs in the Southeastern Conference.
“He is a guy that is very mature and he is going to have to be,” Stoops said. “He has heard plenty about what a good year he had and is getting all the accolades he deserves. We just can’t let that sophomore slump happen. The good news is that he’s been Benny. He’s been out there working and is very reliable.”
With the graduation of Jojo Kemp and decision by Boom Williams to put his name into the NFL draft, Stoops must find other running backs. The most talked about player is redshirt A.J. Rose.
“He is a guy we have high hopes for. I know he looks the part. He is a big, physical guy out there running around. We need him to show what he can do but we are very confident he’ll be big part of our team,” Stoops said.
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