By LARRY VAUGHT
One of the more intriguing football signees for Kentucky on Wednesday was Louisiana quarterback Amani Gilmore.
He’s the third-ranked quarterback in Louisiana this year but in his team’s state championship win he was 11 for 17 passing for 286 yards and five scores with ZERO interceptions and three different players caught scoring passes. He also ran 23 times for 80 yards and another score as Amite High School won its first state title since 2004.
The 6-2, 195-pound Gilmore is an elite athlete. He’s a left-handed pitcher and outfielder and hopes to also play baseball at Kentucky for coach Nick Mingione.
Gilmore likely would have been even more highly recruited if he had not had to sit out the 2017 season after transferring to Amite. That’s why it was key for Kentucky when he verbally committed at midseason after UK’s win over Mississippi State and never wavered in his commitment to the Cats.
Former Kentucky defensive back Van Hiles lives in Louisiana and got to see Gilmore play this season.
“Throws a great deep ball and has a little juice in his legs. Has zip on his passes,” Hiles said when asked what he likes best about Gilmore. “Seems very composed and the moment wasn’t too big for him. Left some throws on the field in the game I watched live and it looked like it was some inconsistent mechanics. Got either a little lazy on the easy throws, tried to overpower the throw or rush the throw.”
All those flaws are correctable, especially since Kentucky returns starting quarterback Terry Wilson. Danny Clark, though, has already decided to transfer after being UK’s No. 3 quarterback last season. Backup quarterback Gunnar Hoak will complete his degree in May and could transfer to another school for his final two years rather than play behind Wilson again. That means Gilmore or redshirt freshman Walker Wood could be UK’s backup next year if Hoak does decide to transfer because Nik Scalzo, the other quarterback UK signed Wednesday, is coming off knee surgery a few weeks ago.
Hiles believes UK got a “steal” with Gilmore — and so do most recruiting analysts.
“At the game, I heard a few fans discuss how he didn’t play last year because of the transfer rule which is maybe why he didn’t garner as much attention as he should have,” Hiles said. “I think potentially seating behind Terry will help him develop more but he has the talent to play in the SEC, no doubt.”
Hiles said tightening up mechanics is common for quarterbacks at any level. He said Gilmore will obviously have to prove he can master the playbook and that decision making is always more difficult in college because the speed of the game accelerates.
“He played in the classification that I played and the talent level is good but not great across the board. He will have to adapt to the speed of the game,” Hiles said.
Could be be a reliable backup quarterback if Hoak did transfer?
“With the talent we will have surrounding him, I think he could be the backup,” Hiles said. “A.J. Rose, Lynn Bowden, Justin Rigg and others would take the pressure off him in any game. It looks like he has the makeup to not be too flustered but it would be best for him not to be thrown to the SEC wolves, though.”
That’s the beauty of signing him because he can learn behind Wilson — or Wilson and Hoak. He can improve those mechanics and going forward give UK another dual threat quarterback that coach Mark Stoops seems to believe is the way to go with his offense.
Here’s another big plus, too. Signing Gilmore could open the door to possibly bringing in more recruits from Louisiana. Receivers coach Michael Smith had success recruiting in Louisiana when he coached at Arkansas and landing Gilmore could lead to more Louisiana signees for the Cats.