LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Since he was named Kentucky’s starting quarterback, Terry Wilson hasn’t become complacent and intends to remain humble this week.
“I’ve got to still keep being up to par, go out there and keep competing and coming out (to practice) to battle,” he said. “I look forward to being at this position right now and do what I can do to keep the job.”
Wilson beat out teammate Gunnar Hoak for the starting job and will take the first snap in the Wildcats’ season-opener against Central Michigan set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Kroger Field.
Earning a starting spot has been a “huge goal” for Wilson since he arrived on campus last winter.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “I’ll always have faith and if I just work hard, big things are going to happen. This started back when (I was playing at) JUCO. I always had to keep it in my mind that I always had to have that chip on my shoulder. Once I got here, I just kept that chip on my shoulder and just work hard (and) big things (will) happen.”
With Hoak and others no longer looming over his shoulder, Wilson has shifted his focus from contending to preparing.
“I’ve just got to play ball,” he said. “I’ve just got to focus on what I need to do to get better this week and the rest will take care of itself.”
Wilson was an early favorite to win the starting job following the graduation of two-year starter Stephen Johnson, who guided the Wildcats to two straight postseason appearances during his tenure as the starter. It took longer than anticipated for Wilson to gain the full support and confidence of the Kentucky coaching staff.
“I feel like I’m more comfortable with the offense,” Wilson said. “I’ve got chemistry with the wideouts and it started showing. We started connecting. It took a while to get it clicking, We all wanted it to happen in the spring, but it (took) some time. … we all bond together and we’re out there grinding and working really, really hard, especially at that position.”
Now that he has a spring practice and fall workout, complete with a challenge from Hoak under his belt, Wilson is more comfortable with the team’s offensive schemes. Wilson said he’s gotten better at coverage recognition and “getting the ball into the hands of the playmakers.”
“I feel like that was the biggest thing (I’ve improved on),” Wilson said. “I see myself becoming more decisive with my decisions.”
Wilson is looking forward to the season opener.
“I’m just looking forward to getting the (win),” he said. “I’m focusing on the week and focusing on this game. I can’t tell you what I’m going to anticipate, I’m just going to be ready to play.”
Kentucky offensive line coach John Schlarman spoke to media members on Tuesday for the first time since fall workouts began. Schlarman has been undergoing chemotherapy for an undisclosed illness and has been focused on his job since the diagnosis.
“I’ve been able to maybe not sit around and worry all day about things,” Schlarman said. “I’ve been able to just go to work and do what I would do on a regular basis. Obviously, it’s probably a little bit harder on my wife because I’m away from home and she’s worried about me a lot and thinking about me every day. So I know that’s a little bit harder on her that it is for me because when you come in and work and you’re at work you’re just working, you’re not thinking about things.
So that’s been refreshing for me, and like I said, I appreciate coach (Mark) Stoops, coach (Eddie) Gran and all these guys for allowing me to continue to do that. We’re going to do that with high standards too, and we’re going to get after it.”
Schlarman, who has been Kentucky’s offensive line coach since 2013, played for the Wildcats from 1994-97. Schlarman is looking forward to the opener and is taking a day-by-day approach with his illness.
“I don’t know the future, I don’t know what it has to bring,” he said. “(I) don’t know what’s in front of me with this stuff, but nobody with cancer probably does.
“But the reality of the situation is you take it day-by-day. That’s what I’m doing — taking it day by day. I feel great right now, so that’s all I can go by. I don’t know what next week, next month, next year is going to bring, but I’m going to take it day by day and just keep on grinding.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.