After long battle, Barker named starting QB for Troy

Published 9:00 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

After a long offseason of speculation about who the quarterback would be for the Trojans in 2018, head coach Neal Brown ended it all Monday when he announced Kaleb Barker as the starter for the season opener against Boise State Saturday.

“Kaleb Barker will start the season as our starter at quarterback. Barker earned that opportunity – he had a great fall camp,” Brown said.

The junior quarterback split reps with redshirt sophomore Sawyer Smith throughout spring and fall practices.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Despite Barker winning the starting job, both quarterbacks will play during the season opener.

“I still have a lot of confidence in Sawyer and the team does too, so he will have a significant role in our offense on Saturday.”

Game preparations for the opener didn’t start until last Thursday. Brown and his coaching staff made their decision just a few days prior.

“It was close. We weren’t keeping it a secret for any particular reason,” Brown said. “Boise has seen both of them on video. They haven’t seen a ton, so we weren’t trying to hide the starter from Boise or anybody that we play early in the year.”

Both quarterbacks did get time with the first unit throughout fall camp. Brown and the rest of the coaches feel comfortable in both quarterbacks and they feel both have a place in the offense.

“We wanted to make a decision that was fair to both of them. I thought they both competed well. I have a lot of confidence in both of them honestly. I think both of them have an opportunity to be really good Division I college quarterbacks. I think our team and our coaching staff respects both of them, trusts both of them.”

“I think it’s a great choice,” said offensive coordinator Matt Moore. “(Barker is) a guy that is very accurate; he can really run. We just have to build a gameplan to where he is successful and not overdo it.”

Barker completed 8 of his 13 passes last season and had one touchdown pass. Barker also contributed with his legs. He rushed for 181 yards on 21 carries and had two touchdowns including a 48-yard touchdown against Akron.

On Saturday, Barker will be going up against one the top defenses in the country that features one of the top secondaries in the country.

Brown believes that Barker will have the ability to make plays with both his arm and legs on Saturday and beyond, but if he were to run into trouble, he won’t have a short leash.

“Kaleb is the starter; He earned that via fall camp,” Brown said. “It’s no different than any other position. If you don’t perform, then the other guy plays, but this isn’t going to be a quick hook deal. Kaleb is going to have an opportunity. He is going to fail some, probably early in the game. You’re playing one of the top defenses in the country with one of the top secondaries in the country that is going to happen, and we understand that going in. We also think he has an opportunity to make some big plays.”

Both quarterbacks have an opportunity to make plays with their legs and there is an opportunity they may see the field at the same time, Brown said, but there would be some challenges.

“It’s a fun thought,” Brown said. “It’s a little hard though because you are taking, you have another guy that can’t block on a play, so it sounds really good, but then you start drawing up who can block who and instead of being short one, you are short two.”