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Tuesday, March 26, 2013
SEC schools stand out for Watch List QB

By Jared Shanker

Steve Spurrier’s reputation precedes him when it comes to quarterbacks. He is hard on his signal-callers, though it should be noted that many turned out to be successful college quarterbacks. But throw an interception and the former Heisman quarterback himself is liable to throw his trademark visor.

ESPN Watch List quarterback Drew Barker (Hebron, Ky./Conner) did not see any of that this weekend as he stood on the sidelines for South Carolina’s spring practice. So he asked Spurrier and some of the Gamecocks players about Spurrier’s approach to the position.

“They’re like, he is kind of hard on [quarterbacks] but it’s mostly constructive criticism,” Barker said. “He’s not just tearing them down. He tells them when they do good and to do something better if they do something wrong.

“It’s nothing that would scare me off or couldn’t handle.”

Making his third visit to Columbia, Barker has already seen a lot of what South Carolina has to offer. This past weekend was about seeing a practice, which he felt was relaxed but in a positive way. He noticed the players were loose, a product of the coaching style.

Barker spent a lot of his visit interacting with the players on the team, and they told him the coaching style is instrumental in South Carolina’s rise as a top-10 program over the last few years.

“I could tell they’re all close and it’s a family environment,” Barker said. “They also told me the coaches, sometimes coaches are all nice when they’re recruiting you, but when you’re on campus it’s different. They said that’s not the case at South Carolina.”

The next visit for Barker will be Tennessee in two weeks. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Barker has yet to visit Knoxville, Tenn., but he is quite familiar with the coaches. Barker began hearing from new Volunteers coach Butch Jones while he was still the coach at Cincinnati -- when Barker was only in eighth grade.

Already very familiar with the coaches, Barker said this visit will be about seeing some of the facilities and how the coaches approach spring practice.

Tennessee fans are thrilled with the job Jones is doing on the recruiting trail in the 2014 class, and Barker is among the many people impressed with the new aura around the Vols, who have six 2014 commitments.

“It’s awesome,” Barker said. “I’m good friends with Todd Kelly and he’s on me hard. He texts me every day. I’m familiar with those guys committed there.”

The SEC is looking like a likely landing spot for Barker as Kentucky is rising quickly up the board for Barker. Since Mark Stoops was hired, Kentucky has made Barker a priority. On just Monday alone, Kentucky sent Barker 115 handwritten letters.

As of late Monday night he still was working his way through all the letters.

“I’m waiting for my mom and dad to give me an extra pair of hands,” he joked.

While that type of recruiting bombardment has raised eyebrows in recruiting circles both positively and negatively, the message was clear to Barker.

“The letters are saying I’m the No. 1 priority on offense or defense,” Barker said. “It makes you feel wanted. It’s definitely pretty cool.”

A decision for Barker will come at the end of April or the beginning of May, which will allow for some programs to come watch him throw during the spring evaluation period. A few programs are recruiting Barker hard but haven’t offered, possibly waiting for Barker to begin spring practice at his high school.

One such school is Georgia, which picked up its recruitment of Barker last month.

“They’re on me pretty hard,” he said. “They told me they could offer based on film but they want to see me in person. They’re coming up one of the first dates of spring practice.”

Barker’s high school begins spring practice on April 15.