Kentucky’s quarterback competition appeared to commence once Liam Coen stepped onto a UK practice field for the first time this spring. In the new offensive coordinator’s eyes, that competition has not yet begun.
“The spring was installation, the fall is competition…” Coen said on Thursday morning’s KSR. “The fall will really be a competition for us top see who’s ultimately going to be the starting quarterback.”
Described as a “measuring stick,” Coen used UK’s 15 spring practices to teach the Wildcat signal-callers the basics of the offense he learned from the L.A. Rams’ Sean McVay and develop a better understanding of the players in his meeting room. He watched all of the tape, but Coen could not create a clear baseline until he got to work with each player individually. At the conclusion of the spring session, Coen liked what he saw.
“Anytime guys get a clean slate and they’re all learning a system at the same time, you can truly see tangible evidence of improvement and I do believe they all got better. I believe that,” he said.
“Joey Gatewood did some really nice things in the play(-action) pass game, pushing the ball vertically down the field some; (he) took to the offense well. Beau (Allen) did a great job as well. Beau has a ton of intangibles that you love to see from a quarterback: great anticipation and accuracy. Kaiya (Sheron) and Nik (Scalzo) all did a great job.”
Pressed by Matt Jones, Coen provided ten-second descriptions for each of the top three quarterback.
Gatewood: “Intriguing prospect. Huge. Big. Works at it. Really has a strong arm. Can push the ball vertically down the field. Really works at the game, loves it. Has been with numerous different coordinators and offenses over the years, so just creating some stability for him will be huge for his development.”
Allen: “Intangibles. Intangibles. Intangibles. He’s just a kid that has grown up around UK and football and playing the quarterback position. Needs to continue to develop in the weight room and get stronger, just mature — he’s still a freshman — continue to mature and grow. I think his future is very bright.”
Will Levis: “Unknown is obviously something — how can he pick up the offense? There’s some physical traits there that you really like to see. Has game experience, has played in big games at a high level. Smart, graduated from Penn State in three years. It’s just — hey, get him some game reps, get him some reps in the system and see how it goes.”
Levis’ delayed arrival delayed the start of a true competition, but Coen has a good idea of where each player currently stands in the projected pecking order.
“I think you have an idea if you had to play, but I don’t believe anybody truly took it over and said this is a no-brainer, no doubt starter for the Kentucky Wildcats, and then you add Will Levis into the mix and see what happens.”
Kentucky’s passing game should improve in 2021, but we’re far from finding out who will be under center when the season kicks off Sept. 4 at Kroger Field.