Kentucky's latest transfer target could signal a loss of faith in Brock Vandagriff and derail his 2024 season

Mark Stoops is busy in the spring transfer portal window and is looking to add Gavin Wimsatt to his quarterback room. Is adding another quarterback the best thing for Brock Vandagriff or a sign the team is losing faith?
Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Gavin Wimsatt (2)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Gavin Wimsatt (2) / Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

When four-star quarterback Gavin Wimsatt left his home state back in 2021 for Rutgers, it was a blow to Mark Stoops and his staff. The Owensboro native was heavily recruited by Kentucky out of high school and now, after three seasons and 19 games of starting experience, Wimsatt is visiting Lexington and exploring a homecoming. 

That 2021 offseason was revelatory for Stoops, who poached Will Levis, who was stuck behind incumbent Sean Clifford, from Penn State through the transfer portal and developed him into an NFL quarterback. Kentucky has found its last three starting quarterbacks through the portal, Levis, Devin Leary last season, and presumably Brock Vandagriff. Stoops is now all-in on the portal as his solution to the quarterback position.

Vandagriff’s situation at Georgia mirrored that of Levis prior to Kentucky, a highly-rated recruit stuck behind a more experienced quarterback with enough eligibility to impede his path to the field. In his career, Vandagriff, another 2021 four-star, has attempted just 21 career passes serving as backups to Stetson Bennett and Carson Beck.

Now, with Vandagriff coming off a promising performance in Kentucky’s spring football game, which was more of a controlled 11-on-11 scrimmage, Stoops is suddenly in the market to add to the quarterback room. Despite the former Bulldog’s lack of experience, the interest in Wimsatt should set off alarm bells for UK fans who believe in Vandagriff as the immediate future of the position. Bringing in competition at this point in the offseason could be disastrous for likely first-time starters, so it could be a sign that Stoops lost faith over the spring.

If Stoops was interested in doing what's best for Vandagriff's development, he'd stay away from any QBs on the market, especially ones with starting experience. However, if he felt his team needed depth, it's paramount he makes the hierarchy clear and puts Vandagriff at the top.

In 2023, Wimsatt's first as the full-time starter for the Scarlet Knights, he threw for 1,735 yards with 9 touchdowns and ran for 497 yards and 11 more scores. He led Rutgers to its first bowl game victory since 2014, though, a big reason he’s leaving Piscataway was his 47.2% completion percentage and eight interceptions.

Rutgers football experienced the most success it has had since Schiano’s first stint as the team’s head coach and yet, the team was willing to move on from Wimsatt in favor of Minnesota transfer Athan Kaliakmanis. The addition of a Big Ten starting quarterback sent Wimsatt to the portal, presumably in search of a starting job.

If Stoops is promising Wimsatt an open competition for QB1, then he’s making a huge mistake. Wimsatt is the more experienced player, but that’s working against him in this case. He struggled badly as a passer at Rutgers and even in a 7-6 campaign, the Scarlet Knights finished 123rd in total offense, 118th in yards per play, and 127th in passing offense. Vandagriff is unproven, but he obviously possesses superior arm talent and from spring ball it seemed he was decisive enough to run Bush Hamdan's new “caffeinated” version of the pro-style offense that Liam Coen excelled with in Lexington. 

Vandagriff should be given a long and smooth runway to the season, monopolizing the first-team reps in practice with a playbook constructed to accentuate his abilities. A summer QB competition would present unneeded turbulence and knock the Wildcat passing game off course. 

However, if Stoops views Wimsatt as an insurance policy and reclamation project, then this could be a worthy investment. Currently, Beau Allen projects as QB2 with freshman Cutter Boley as the possible third-stringer. Allen started his career at Kentucky in 2020 and bounced from Tarleton State to Georgia State (where his eligibility request was denied) before returning to play out his final two seasons of college football. Allen was slated to take the starting job before Levis arrived and now another transfer could bump him down a spot on the depth chart. 

If things go poorly for Vandagriff in Year 1, then Wimsatt will be there as a generally playable quarterback with legitimate athletic upside. In that case, Wimsatt could take over the job in 2025 and provide a baseline competency at the position provided that the team strikes out on upgrades in the portal.

If things go exceptionally well for Vandagriff in Year 1, then he could be off to the NFL, though he’d be a nerve-racking prospect for NFL evaluators due to the lack of game reps. In that case, too, Wimsatt slides up the depth chart.

However, the most likely scenario is that Wimsatt backs up Vandagriff, makes at most a few spot-starts over two seasons, and provides an element of athleticism in the red zone with sub-packages. That could be valuable, but it won’t outweigh the risks of a hometown talent breathing down the presumptive starter’s neck with a fanbase desperate to see the offense succeed. If he does commit, Wimsatt’s arrival would be presented as a triumph of Stoops’s re-recruiting and a transfer portal coup, but if the team doesn’t play it right in the locker room, the added pressure on Vandagriff’s shoulders could derail the entire season before it even starts.

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