KNOXVILLE, TN. – UK football quarterback Terry Wilson’s calling card at the beginning of the season was that he was a quick-footed, quick-thinking quarterback that was maybe a little too loose with the ball.
That scouting report was backed up when he turned the ball over four times against Central Michigan in the season opener, a game the Cats ended up winning quite comfortably. He was substituted for Gunnar Hoak then, but after a performance in Gainesville that saw him both rush and pass for over 100 yards, his spot wasn’t questioned until week eight.
That game, an ugly victory over Vanderbilt, saw Wilson complete three passes for 18 yards, all to Lynn Bowden. What happened between Gainesville and Lexington? The quarterback that was known for his scrambling ability, quick instincts and strong arm is now taking sacks and only completing short-yard sideline passes.
In a 7-24 loss to Tennessee, the signal-caller wasn’t much better. He averaged five yards per pass attempt, and that’s only when he let go of the ball. His longest pass was 20-yard strike to Tavin Richardson, when the Cats were in absolute desperation mode.
KNOXVILLE, TN. - Kentucky football traveled to Neyland Stadium on Saturday looking to right …
Wilson was also sacked five times in the game, and while several are not his fault, several can certainly be attributed to him. When Wilson gets pressured, he doesn’t step forward in the pocket like many other scrambling quarterbacks. He’ll take a step back, spin and roll across the field to try to escape his pursuer.
There are several problems with this tactic. First is the options it eliminates. When Wilson rolls, his right arm, the throwing arm, is pointed down the field. Because of this, he can’t get the rest of his body into his throw and will either throw an inaccurate or short throw, if he’s able to get it off at all.
Second, if he does choose to throw, his eyes are off the receivers for at least a second as he spins away from defenders. His attention is no longer downfield.
Finally, Wilson is often running to the sideline, which means he has to change direction if he wants to gain meaningful yardage. It’s not a healthy combination for one of the fastest quarterbacks in the SEC.
“There were some times tonight, he waited a little bit too long,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said after the loss to Tennessee. “And there were some times he was right on. You can’t wait too long when guys have got their ears pinned back and they’re going… we’ll get back and we’ll figure it out.”
Since his scrambling style hinders his throwing, defenders can slack off on coverage to make a beeline for Wilson, who at this point is probably somewhere about 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Wilson lost an average of eight yards per sack against the Volunteers, with one coming down 13 yards behind the line. On one, his offensive line collapsed, and he fumbled only two yards behind the line. That was his shortest loss on a sack.
It's unclear what happened to the quarterback that Cats fans saw in Gainesville. In a practice before the week nine victory over Missouri, Wilson said that he was lacking “fire." That game saw him complete a game-winning two-minute drive after a terrible offensive performance the rest of the game beforehand.
His play echoes the sentiment of his coaches. Head coach Mark Stoops said that the team “wasn’t prepared” and “didn’t give a good effort” against the hated Volunteers.
Against Tennessee, Wilson attempted only one pass longer than 25 yards, and it fell incomplete in the fourth quarter, when the Cats desperately needed yards.
His explosiveness, aggressiveness and confidence seem to be sitting in the halftime locker room somewhere around week three. He’s the Cats’ most athletic and dynamic player at that position, and if the Cats want as historic a season as they’re asking for, they’ll need Florida Terry back on the field, or at least someone that acts like him.