For recruitniks and University of Kentucky fans alike, the three names read like the Apostles Creed in Catholic church.
Justin Burke. Will Fidler. Michael Hartline.
Sure, their was a flirtation with North Carolina commitment B.J. Phillips and a short stint with Pittsburgh verbal Dexter Davidson, but to the Wildcat nation, the staff made it pretty evident from the start who they wanted.
Burke had been offered in the early part of his junior year at Lexington Catholic and was, by far, the best quarterback in the state. If Burke was the best, Fidler certainly wasn't far behind. One of the area's statistical monsters, Fidler had thrown for over 4,000 in each of his two seasons at Henderson Co. HS.
And then there was Hartline.
The 6-foot-6, 180 pound gunslinger was supposed to contend for an Elite 11 invitation after two superb seasons at Glenoak. Brother Brian was headed to Ohio State and it was only a matter of time before Michael broke through and received the attention of his brother for his senior season.
For Wildcat fans it was pretty simple - get Fidler and Burke.
Burke would verbal to North Carolina State prior to his senior season to concentrate on a state championship, one he would later claim three months later, and Fidler announced days before Burke's choice, that he was coming to Kentucky.
One for two. Not bad.
The next 5 months would be a sesaw of emotions that a Chicago windfront would be jealous of. With Davidson off the board to Pitt, Hartline looking into Big Ten country for alternatives and Phillips committing to North Carolina, the staff, in desperation offered two rising quarterbacks: Dwayne Harris and Scott Tolzien in October.
Harris was a short, stocky, but athletic quarterback who could beat you with his feet or his arm. He made plays with the ball in his hands, but questions concerning his ability to play at the next level at 5-foot-9, overshadowed his collegiate potential.
Tolzien was a good prospect, not great, and one in which UK felt they could entice into a commitment, but a young man that was just feeling out the process during the time of the Wildcats arrival.
While the 'Cats staff pushed, Tolzien resisted, and Kentucky headed into December with just one verbal commitment at quarterback. Hartline, meanwhile, saw his stock drop considerably because schools had begun filling their quota for quarterbacks. Originally offered by Ole Miss, Cincinnati, Marshall, Michigan State and Wisconsin, Hartline saw his list dwindle to two - Illinois and Kentucky.
Then came December and an in-home visit from 'the closer.'
With head coach Rich Brooks and two assistants in the house, Hartline's recruiting bubble finally 'popped,' and thus ended a successful hunt for its second quarterback.
And to think - it all started just 10 months ago for Brooks and company, when they took a pool of 8,000 quarterbacks and decided on three.
Blessed with excellent height and a powerful arm … Three-year letterman at GlenOak HS in Canton, Ohio, he began starting at quarterback midway through his sophomore season … Showed both running and passing skills … As a senior he threw for 1,523 yards and six touchdowns while adding 533 rushing yards and 12 more TDs on the ground … Team went to the state playoffs his junior year as he passed for 2,405 yards and 16 TDs while adding 353 rushing yards and eight scores on the ground … Team competed in Division I, the highest classification in Ohio … Earned all-county, All-Federal League, and all-district honors two years and was honorable-mention All-Ohio as a senior … An All-America prospect by PrepStar … Rivals.com rated him the nation's No. 31 pro-style quarterback and one of the top-40 prospects in Ohio … One of the top-125 players in the six-state Midwest area by SuperPrep … Coached by Jack Rose … "Michael is big and agile, with a terrific arm," Rose said. "He can make all the throws. I think he's going to be an outstanding college quarterback, and have a good chance of playing after college." … Also a standout in track, an indication of his athletic ability … Will be a four-year letterman, competing in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, high jump, and 4x400 relay … Has been a Special Olympics volunteer … His brother Brian plays football at Ohio State … Narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan State before picking the Wildcats.
(Henderson County HS)
Completed his high school degree in January and enrolled at Kentucky … Won the Roy Kidd Award as the Class AAAA (largest classification) Player of the Year in Kentucky as a junior and senior … Threw for 9,395 yards in his career, completing 618 of 1,017 passes, with 92 touchdowns … Ranks fourth in state history in passing yardage, fifth all-time in attempts and completions … Four-year letterman and three-year starter at Henderson (Ky.) County HS … Team went 43-9 in his four years … Went to the state playoffs each season, reaching the state semifinals his freshman and junior years … Finalist for Kentucky's "Mr. Football" award as a senior as he threw for 2,288 yards and 25 touchdowns … Also the team's punter, averaging 35 yards per punt … Chosen for the Lexington Herald-Leader "Class of the Commonwealth" top-22 seniors in Kentucky … Named to the "Kentucky Tremendous 26" by the Kentucky High School Coaches Association … The Louisville Courier-Journal pegged him second-team all-state as a senior (covering all classifications), third team as a junior, and honorable mention as a sophomore … Kentucky Player of the Year his junior season by American Football Monthly … Junior year stats featured 4,050 passing yards and 45 TDs … Two-year choice for the All-Big Eight Conference team … One of the nation's top-25 pro-style quarterback prospects by Rivals.com … Also the Rivals.com No. 8 prospect in Kentucky … Coached by Tom "Duffer" Duffy … "Will has the size, arm strength, and the ‘want to do it' to succeed in college," Coach Duffy said … Two-year letterman in basketball … Competed three years in track, competing in the discus throw and 400-meter dash … An uncle, George Petitgout, played football at Penn State … A cousin, Luke Petitgout, played football at Notre Dame and currently is a starting offensive tackle for the New York Giants … Three brothers, Rob Egan, Eric Egan, and Alex Egan, all played football at Southern Illinois; Rob also played at Alabama … Received recruiting attention from numerous teams, but made an early commitment to Kentucky and did not seriously consider other schools.