The thrill and the agony: Will Levis named starting QB, Joey Gatewood to transfer


Quarterbacks. Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

Hunter Shelton

Possibly the most important quarterback battle in the tenure of Mark Stoops’ time at Kentucky ended on Sunday, as the head coach named Will Levis the starting quarterback for the Wildcats week one matchup against UL Monroe. 

Levis, a Penn State transfer, beat out Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood and Lexington native Beau Allen for the job. 

“I feel very clear on this decision,” Stoops said. 

Levis spent three seasons with the Nittany Lions before transferring to the Bluegrass. He played in 15 games for Penn State, racking up just 644 passing yards, hurling three touchdowns and two interceptions. 

The junior arrived in Lexington in June, having little time to pick up the playbook of new offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Levis managed to close the gap quickly between GatewoodAllen and himself, adjusting well enough to Coen’s pro-style offense to earn the starting job.  

“He’s been extremely efficient running the offense,” Stoops said. “His first throw in the stadium was a 65-yard touchdown strike. He has a lot of talent…he won the job.” 

I’m so incredibly blessed to be given this amazing opportunity,” Levis tweeted. “Words can’t describe how excited I am to lead this group of guys! Get ready for a great season, Big Blue Nation!” 

While the decision equates to excitement for Levisit’s another blow to Joey Gatewood.  

This was not Gatewood’s first quarterback battle. Gatewood originally committed to the Auburn Tigers in 2015 as a sophomore in high school. Eventually, Gatewood enrolled in Auburn, with sights of QB1 in his future.  

As Fall camp ensued on the plains, then head coach Gus Malzahn named Bo Nix as the Tigers starting quarterback. It was thought that Gatewood’s dual-threat capabilities would keep him in the playbook in some way. 

Gatewood would appear in seven games for the Tigers, mostly in relief of Nix in garbage time situations. In those seven appearances, Gatewood rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns, throwing two touchdowns along the way.  

In October of 2019, Gatewood made the decision to leave Auburn and enter the transfer portal. Just a month after, Gatewood visited Lexington, eventually announcing his decision to come to UK in December.  

Gatewood’s decision to join Kentucky prompted many fans to believe that he would become the starter over Beau Allen after the departure of Terry Wilson. Gatewood started in one game for the Wildcats but overall didn’t see much action in 2020. Enter new offensive coordinator Coen and the transfer Levis, and once again Gatewood finds himself on the outside looking in.  

Now as he did in Auburn, Gatewood will enter the transfer portal.  

“I told (Joey) how much I appreciated how hard he’s worked. I know he’s been through this before so I knew it would be especially tough. Tough decision, not what he wanted to hear,” Stoops said. 

Gatewood will have a week to decide if he wants to follow through on entering his name into the portal, otherwise he will have to remain at Kentucky for the season. Stoops said that Gatewood will no longer practice with the team.  

The departure of Gatewood means that Beau Allen has secured the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.  

“For (Beau) it was very business-like, just like always,” Stoops said. “He’s worked hard…If I listed Joey second and Beau third, in my opinion right now that wasn’t fair to Beau. 

Allen, like Gatewood, was seen as a hopeful candidate to be under center for the Wildcats in 2021. A Lexington Catholic High School graduate and a homegrown talent, Allen was a popular pick amongst the fan base before and after the arrival of Levis.  

Stoops made his announcement very clear in that this decision was not a result as to what Gatewood didn’t do, but what Levis did do: 

“I’m not comfortable talking negatively about any of our players,” Stoops said regarding why Gatewood did not win the job. “I have great respect for Joey.” 

With game one less than three weeks away, the biggest question entering camp has been answered. Barring injury or a change of heart, Will Levis will captain the Cats offense on September 4 against UL Monroe.