Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips didn't name a starting quarterback after spring football drills concluded on April 24, indicating that the three-way battle between senior Mike Hartline, sophomore Morgan Newton and redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski will continue in August.
Hartline started the first five games of last season until injuring a knee, which opened the door for Newton to finish the season as the starting signal caller.
Now fully recovered, Hartline is acting and sounding like a player who intends to be the starter when the Wildcats open the 2010 campaign against Louisville.
"It's my time," Hartline said. "I'm not going to let anyone take this away from me. It's my senior year and I want it more than anybody else. I just want to make everyone aware that I'm putting everything on the line for this team and for us to win football games."
Hartline has the experience edge over his two competitors, and Kentucky's passing offense struggled after he was hurt. Newton flashed potential during the second half of the campaign and has the added bonus of being a dangerous runner. Mossakowski redshirted while recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered in high school.
Their performances in Kentucky's Blue/White spring game on April 24 didn't separate one from the others. Hartline was 11 of 24 for 124 yards, a touchdown and an interception; Newton was 6 of 12 for 92 yards and an interception, while Mossakowski went 6-for-13 for 37 yards.
"I think this competition is way too close to decide in April," Phillips said. "We will continue this competition to August and hopefully we can come up with a decision quickly. We need a guy to get the majority of No. 1 snaps.
"I'm not disappointed because I think we have an opportunity to win with all three of these guys."NOTES, QUOTES
--Defensive end DeQuin Evans survived a scare during an early-April practice when he had his knee rolled up on. Fortunately for Evans, the knee was only mildly sprained. Evans will be counted on heavily this season after a terrific junior season that included team-high totals for sacks (six) and tackles for loss (12.5).
--Sophomore linebacker Ridge Wilson had a lost season last year that included a brief suspension due to an assault charge. The Wildcats remain high on him, and he was running second team behind senior Jacob Dufrene at strongside linebacker during spring drills.
WLB Danny Trevathan -- His play and leadership stood out and the junior appears primed to be the Wildcats' defensive leader this season.
RB Donald Russell -- The sophomore had a big spring and took a big step toward winning the No. 2 tailback spot behind starter Derrick Locke. Russell had nine carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns in Kentucky's spring game.
OT Chandler Burden -- The junior moved over from defensive line and is making a push to be the starting right tackle in Kentucky's revamped offensive line.
DT Mister Cobble - A redshirt freshman, Cobble is making bid to be the replacement for Corey Peters, a third-round NFL draft pick. Cobble, a scout-team standout last season, needs to further improve his conditioning.
S Josh Gibbs - Gibbs, a junior college transfer, is the favorite to start alongside senior safety Winston Guy.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know we are still considered the weak link. But I know for a fact that we're changing that around. I see guys flying around. I have faith in this defensive line that we can do it. We've just got to finish. If we can finish, we can be a great defensive line." -- Kentucky defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin on the perception that Kentucky needs improved defensive line play.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Kentucky is chasing a fifth consecutive winning season and a fifth consecutive bowl season in 2010 under new coach Joker Phillips, who replaced the retired Rick Brooks. The Wildcats have to sort out their quarterback situation and identify three starting spots on the offensive line in August. Defensively, the Wildcats are in transition mode after losing four veteran standouts.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: All-purpose player Randall Cobb and running back Derrick Locke will again be the focal points of the Wildcats' offense. Cobb caught 39 passes as a receiver last season and excelled when lining up in the team's direct-snap "WildCobb" formation after quarterback Mike Hartline was lost to a knee injury. Locke had a team-best 907 rushing yards. Guard Stuart Hines will be the leader of the offensive line and part-time 2009 starter Brad Durham will be one of the starting tackles.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Kentucky has a potentially solid defensive line with ends DeQuin Evans and Taylor Wyndham and tackle Ricky Lumpkin all back. Linebacker Danny Trevathan has shown big-play ability in the past and is counted on to be a team leader now that linebackers Micah Johnson and Sam Maxwell have exhausted their eligibility. Safety Winston Guy is solid in the secondary but the cornerbacks are a concern after the departure of four-year starter Trevard Lindley.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Ryan Tydlacka is a steady punter and it will be decided in August whether he's also needed to be the place-kicker. The hope is that incoming freshman Joe Mansour will handle the kicking duties. Cobb is a top-notch punt returner and Locke is a dynamic kickoff returner.
--Junior safety Matt Lentz has decided to no longer play football after a series of concussions. Lentz had 46 tackles and two interceptions in 25 career games over the past two seasons.
--Sophomore defensive end Taylor Wyndham (shoulder), junior offensive linemen Jake Lanefski (knee) and senior fullback Moncell Allen (knee) didn't participate in spring drills after undergoing postseason surgeries.
--Quarterback Max Smith, who played high school ball in Southern California, chose the Wildcats and will enroll in school in January and be part of Kentucky's 2011 recruiting class. The class of commitments currently stands at four -- other verbals are from TE Jon Davis (Louisville, Ky.), defensive back Glen Faulkner (East St. Louis, Ill.) and offensive lineman Darrian Miller (Lexington, Ky.).
Previous Report: 04/11/2010