Meet the quarterbacks


Joey Gatewood (2) throws the ball during the UK football Fan Day open practice on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Barkley Truax

If one word could describe the Kentucky quarterback room this fall, it would be confident.

It’s a new era for Kentucky quarterbacks after the transfer of Terry Wilson to New Mexico, where one quarterback is coming off two-straight seasons of injury, two debut last season filling in as the backups and the other is an incoming transfer; fans haven’t really gotten to know any of the quarterbacks that have made their homes in Lexington. 

With the addition of Liam Coen from the Los Angeles Rams, Kentucky’s new offensive coordinator has introduced a new 12 personnel (one RB, two TE) offense, which seems to be a popular scheme, according to the leaders of the offense. Each quarterback expressed their excitement about how it will improve Kentucky football this season.

Here’s a closer look at the athletes who will play under center for this year’s Kentucky squad:

Nik Scalzo:

Scalzo has been unfortunate when it comes to physical health in his tenure in Lexington. The former star of Netflix’s “QB1” hasn’t been completely healthy since his senior year of high school.

“It’s definitely taken its toll on my mind and body,” Sclazo said. “Getting hurt back to back years definitely does a lot to me on and off the field, but it’s really taught me a lot of things.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m thankful for my injuries, but I’m definitely not sad or mad about them. It’s made me who I am today and I’m just happy to be 100% for the first time since actually being in college,” he added.

It’s been over a year since his last surgery and is now in a position where he feels like he was never even hurt in the first place. Due to his injuries and the extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19, Sclazo has four more years of college football to play; “I almost feel like I’m a freshman again.”

In terms of the new offense, Scalzo feels confident that the up-tempo, pass-heavy scheme plays to his strengths. He said he loves nothing more than to get the playmakers the ball, which is what this offense is all about.

On another note, the sophomore elected to enter the transfer portal after the firings of former offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and former quarterback coach Derin Hinshaw, who were his two main recruiters.

“The only reason I went into the portal was because I wanted to go with one of my other coaches to a different destination,” he said. “I’m honestly very happy I stayed because I’m ready to show my talents this camp.”

Beau Allen:

Year two for Allen may be the most important for him to hone his craft before his number gets called sometime in the future. With the new offense being implemented, he has to change some habits he’s gotten used to since high school. 

“The big thing for me is mostly my footwork, getting my feet quicker and staying in rhythm with receivers,” Allen said. “With our offense, a lot of plays (involve) drop back passes where it’s better to get in rhythm with receivers instead of hurrying and doing your drop-back as fast as you can.”

This will be the third entirely new scheme Allen has had to learn in four years dating back to his time at Lexington Catholic High School. 

“The main difference (of learning a new offense) goes back to the philosophy of throwing the football … It’s more about the style and how you go about yourself.”

A new aspect of the game being taught to Allen over the Summer  is playing under center. The sophomore said that this offense has more plays under center than he’s ever had in his life, and that’s not all that he has to learn.

The non-football actions, in his opinion, are the most important part of it all. Being a true leader of the offense, getting everyone where they need to be physically and mentally to make the team successful is the winning formula for this offensive scheme.

In the meantime, Allen is patiently waiting and learning under the older quarterbacks ahead of him. “Whenever my shot is, I’ve always got to be ready no matter what the situation is,” Allen said.

Joey Gatewood:

Gatewood has the most experience in a Kentucky uniform in game situations. He made one start last season against Georgia and saw action versus Mississippi State, Tennessee, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Alabama.

He believes he’s grown a lot in a year. “I feel like I took a big stride mentally and physically in the weight room as well as the film room,” Gatewood said. “I’m really confident right now and I’m just taking this day by day.”

“I can’t get enough of it,” he said of this new offense. “I’ve got to keep working, repping it and trying to perfect it. It’s exciting.”

One aspect of his game he looks to improve is his deep ball, which was a weakness for Kentucky quarterbacks in 2020 as well as having depth at the wide receiver position who can make those catches 20-30 yards down the field. 

In terms of Kentucky receivers that can make those plays? “All of them,” he said. “They all deserve a shot.”

He’s a quarterback who’s used to a short clap cadence, but with Coen’s new offense, he’s had to learn a more complex, pro-style cadence where he has to call the full formation and entire play between every snap. “It’s different, so I’m embracing it.”

“I think we’ll have everything on full display on September 4th. I am definitely excited to get going.”

Will Levis:

Levis comes into this season with the most experience out of all the quarterbacks on Kentucky’s roster. After three years at Penn State, Levis landed in Lexington seeking a home for the next couple of years to advance his game to where he feels he’s in a place to produce at the next level. 

“I think (this is) a great offense to get me prepared for my ultimate goal, which is the NFL,” Levis said.

During his time as a Nittany Lion, he had the privilege to play behind current Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley, who told him that no matter where you are on the depth chart, to carry yourself like you’re the starter. That mindset has stuck with him ever since and represents how he sees himself in this program.

“At the end of the day, you can’t fake leadership,” Levis said. “You have to be yourself, be genuine, prepare the right way and be that role model for people.”

After he announced his intent to transfer, the portal can be a lot for an athlete to handle, but puts stress on their family as well.

When he told his mother, Beth, that he was coming to Kentucky, her first question was “How is Kentucky’s offensive line?” Levis laughed and said that she didn’t want her son to get killed, but he assured her that the line is deep and that he can’t ask for more as a quarterback.

While he gets used to the new offense Kentucky has implemented this Summer, Levis is ready to showcase the layers that come with his game.

“Obviously I’m not going to be asked to run as much as I was at Penn State, which I didn’t mind, but I’ve always been looking forward to using my arm and showcasing my arm talent a little more,” he said. Levis believes that he’s a perfect fit behind center this Fall. 

“My physical attributes and being able to throw the ball effectively with velocity, accuracy and my decision making skills with a couple years under my belt in college, my experience is going to help me that way.”

He added, “I’ve always been confident in my ability to throw and I know that Coach Coen will be confident in it as well … Being able to put on display all the throws I can make, the offense allows me to make all kinds of throws, which is exciting.”

At the end of the day, playing in the SEC for a team that has done really well in the past few seasons, Levis believes Kentucky has something really good in store for the future and with the addition of Coen, he thinks this is only the beginning.