South Carolina missed Friday afternoon on its top quarterback target for the 2014 class when Drew Barker of Hebron, Ky., picked Kentucky over the Gamecocks and Tennessee.
He made his announcement at his school in front of a few hundred friends, family and media.
Barker sat on a stage with his parents and coach behind a table with baseball caps representing his three finalists. As he announced for the Wildcats, he reached under the table and put on a cap with the large letters C-A-T-S emblazoned across the front.
"I feel the university I'm choosing is the best overall fit for me academically, athletically and socially," Barker said.
Barker is the only quarterback USC quarterbacks coach GA Mangus has offered for the 2014 class.
"That was definitely one of the most difficult conversations I've had in my life," Barker said of his phone call to Mangus. "I was that close to going to South Carolina. It was really tough because we have a great friendship. It was just really, really tough to do."
Terry Barker, Drew's dad, said the family had "tears in our eyes" when Drew had to break the news to Mangus, who visited Barker's school on Thursday.
Barker said he knew on Wednesday he was going to Kentucky and it was a very close call between the two schools. However, he feels the new UK staff is turning things around and he didn't want to miss out on that.
"Six months ago I definitely didn't think I would be putting on a UK hat here," Barker said. "At the end of the day I sat down and thought what would it be like if I went to South Carolina and I looked over to UK and they are doing great thinks and I can think, 'Oh man, I really missed out on that.' The vibe is just completely different. They've upped everything and went to new paths people didn't think Kentucky football can go to."
Last season Barker passed for 2,072 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for 1,455 yards and 18 touchdowns. As a sophomore he passed for 1,473 yards and 7 touchdowns and rushed for 1,570 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Barker wore a red tie to the press conference, which had some media wondering if South Carolina was going to be his choice. But Barker said the choice of tie didn't hold any significance except that "my mom thought it looked good on me."
Barker said he also thought about "life after football, and the connections you've made in your home state when you're done playing."