Where does Liam Coen stand on UK’s quarterback battle?


Quarterbacks. Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

Barkley Truax

Kentucky’s new offensive coordinator Liam Coen has a huge decision to make in the next few weeks: 

It’s up to him to decide who will play under center this season. The general consensus around BBN is that it’s a two-man quarterback battle between Will Levis and Joey Gatewood with Beau Allen being the true third option. 

With so much speculation surrounding the quarterback position, one thing, Coen said, is definitely set in stone: There’s only room for one starting quarterback in Lexington; Coen would prefer to keep things simple than run the offense with two guys taking snaps.

What’s Coen’s analysis on his two options?:

Will Levis:

“He’s an intelligent, bright kid that can pick up on schemes and things pretty quickly, which is nice,” Coen said. “All the guys did such a nice job in the Spring with learning the offense.” Levis is a little behind because he hasn’t been able to practice as much as the other quarterbacks and has to learn and rep the basics before he can take his game to the next level.

Coen’s biggest problem is not being able to see Levis throw live since he’s arrived on campus, so he doesn’t have that idea of whether or not he can actually be the first-string quarterback. 

“Adding Will (Levis) absolutely helped the depth, but that doesn’t mean that he’s the starting quarterback,” he said. “Anybody could be at this point.”

Joey Gatewood:

“He did a great job pushing the ball down the field in the Spring,” Coen said. “His accuracy over 20 yards was pretty nice to see.” In terms of down-field accuracy and getting the ball out on time, Coen said he could improve in that aspect of his game as well as when it comes to picking up the blitz in third down situations.

Despite Coen coming in and changing offensive schemes, Gatewood does have experience under center for Kentucky, which is something Levis doesn’t. 

At the end of the day, Coen pointed out, is that fall camp will tell a lot about whether either quarterback can be Kentucky’s guy and said the depth at the quarterback position is a real tool to have.

“We’re not in a hurry,” Coen said about choosing the starter. “We’re going to make this decision right and pick the best player to lead our offense.”

“Anytime you’ve got competition, it’s a good problem. At the end of the day, it’s my job to get the quarterbacks to play at a high level.” 

“Your tape is your resume,” he said. “ … Who gives us the best chance to not turn the ball over, to keep the chains moving? Who’s been more successful in the red zone during training camp? How about third down situations?”

To Coen, it comes down to who is the best in the situational aspects of the game and who shows the most leadership.

He believes the everyone in the quarterback room took a step forward this Spring. He continued to reiterate over and over again that whoever he feels will make Kentucky the most successful will be the one taking snaps on Saturdays. 

Coen has been a part of a quarterback battle himself during his playing days at Maine, where his coaches ended up starting a redshirt freshman over the older, more experienced guys. 

“At the end of the day, you make the best decision for your program,” he said. “There’s going to be difficult conversations to have at times. It’s never fun to tell somebody that’s played quarterback their entire life that they’re not going to be the guy.”

Whether it’s Levis or Gatewood, Coen has until Sept. 4 at noon to decide who will be the man in Lexington when Kentucky kicks their season off against Louisiana Monroe inside Kroger Field.