With the beginning of the season about to get under way Joker Phillip’s is yet to make the biggest decision of the season. Who will lead the Wildcats in the huddle come the Governor’s Cup on September 4th? A game that has no favorite and is up for grabs kind of like the ‘Cats quarterback position. The ‘Cats quarterbacks is the first position that will be discussed in a series of positional previews leading up to the Wildcats opening kick-off in Louisville. There is no clear cut favorite as of now but one thing is for certain Joker will have to make a decision sometime soon in order to get a good feel for what his team has to offer in 2010.
The Seasoned Vet: Mike Hartline
Mike Hartline has all the experience but not a ton of talent to help the ‘Cats this season. Word is out of the practices so far taking place, Hartline has a stronger arm and has been much more accurate with his 15 to 20 yard passes down field. Hartline if you can recall was tremendously consistent with his 5-yard routes and screen passes but really who isn’t? If Hartline wants to grab the starting spot he is going to have to prove that he can make the long passes consistently. The one positive Hartline has going his way is that he has been the starting quarterback coming out of spring practice for the ‘Cats the previous two season’s.
He has plenty of experience but every season that experience proves not to be enough to get the ‘Cats that big win versus top opponents. Over those past two season’s Hartline’s numbers have been a little rough. His passing percentage never reaching above 60% and he is only averaging about 6 yards a pass. In two seasons he has only been able to throw for 15 touchdowns.
A number that most above average quarterbacks reach by week 10-11 in just one season. The Wildcats have been a run first team since he has taken over but I am pretty sure those stats are the reason why. Kentucky has been looking for a replacement since standout quarterback Andre Woodson graduated. Mike Hartline is not the smartest choice for the Wildcats but he is the safest. Inconsistency will plague Hartline but he could cut down on turnovers, which are always deadly in college football.
The Fan Favorite: Morgan Newton
Morgan Newton won over the hearts of many last season with his stellar performances against Auburn and Georgia. Both games were on the road. Not an easy task for a freshman quarterback. Newton a freshman last season came out of Carmel, Indiana. He was a High School All-American. Typically, a recruit Kentucky never gets their hands on. He was a four-star prospect and will be the next “big thing” for Kentucky Wildcats football. Joker Phillips just isn’t sure if his time is now.
No matter who is the starting quarterback one thing is for sure, Newton will see the playing field at some point in 2010. He is too big of a weapon to keep on the sidelines. Newton has a pretty accurate arm and has a pretty strong one too. Last season in five games behind center Newton posted a 109.7 passer rating and threw 6 touchdowns in place of the injured Mike Hartline. He also threw for 706 yards. Now you may not think this is impressive but when seeing he only played in five games, that many yards is a pretty impressive feat. Newton still has some growing up to do but there is not a better place for that to happen than behind center.
The more snaps Newton takes the more he will learn and the better he becomes. He has much more upside than Hartline and the gamble is worth the reward to most in the Bluegrass. Newton has two big wins under his belt both on the road, which will help with the experience of playing in such a tough conference as the SEC. When comparing the two quarterbacks it will be hard for Joker Phillips to bench a senior but Newton brings more to the table and will ultimately I believe bring more wins to Kentucky. Also, Newton provides a little more of a running threat than Hartline which makes options much more dangerous for the ‘Cats. Morgan Newton is the right choice but it all comes down to how they perform in practice during the fall.
The Sleeper: Ryan Mossakowski
Ryan Mossakowski is exactly what the definition of a sleeper is. He has the same potential, as Newton but does not posses the experience that Hartline or Newton bring to the table. He has all the intangibles that a good pocket passer has. He has a very powerful arm which gives Kentucky a deep threat and he is more accurate then Hartline. This isn’t saying much though because more than half the NCAA is more accurate then Hartline. Mossakowski is a work in project but he will be a good one. He too was a four-star quarterback coming out of Texas and is a tough competitor. He has a long way to come before he is the ‘Cats field general but he could sneak in to the talks if he has a good fall. With his arm and accuracy he seems like an attractive pick at quarterback.
I still believe this is Newton’s race to lose but Mossakowski could someday take over. With two four-star prospects and at the same age Joker Phillips is going to need to make a decision. Mossakowski red shirted last season but still even if he were to wait until Newton graduates that still only gives him a year at the helm which doesn’t really seem fair to a player of his stature. Phillips is either going to have to move Newton to maybe a wide receiver position or figure out something to do with Mossakowski. If not we may end up seeing Mossakowski transfer at some point in his career at Kentucky.