VAUGHT: Hartline is a competitor

Kentucky Sports Report's Larry Vaught has been impressed by the competitiveness of Mike Hartline, and sees Hartline as a legitimate threat to be the starting quarterback for Kentucky next fall. Vaught recently spoke to Hartline about the quarterback situation. Hartline told Vaught, "I am taking on more responsibilities. I want to be the guy here."

If there is one trait I like better about Mike Hartline than anything else it would have to be his competitiveness.

Sure, he's a good passer who will get better. Sure, he's a better runner than many realize. Sure, he's a natural quarterback who sees the field win.

But more than anything, he's a battler and that's why it would be wrong to think he could not be UK's No. 1 quarterback next season.

"I thought I improved a lot this spring like Coach (Randy Sanders and Coach (Joker) Phillips wanted me to. We want someone out there who can steadily move the offense and get first downs," Hartline said. "We want productivity. As long as you get productivity without wasting the negative plays and don't let the defense get their hands on the ball, that's what the coaches want. I think we did a pretty good job of improving week by week.

"I am only going to continue to get better. This whole spring my mind was definitely into it as much as it has ever been. I am taking on more responsibilities. I want to be the guy here. I hope only good things happen."

It would have been easy for Hartline to feel he had no chance to beat out junior Curtis Pulley, a former Kentucky Mr. Football who already has game experience. Instead of letting that underdog role discourage him, Hartline proved he could also play.

"I did feel that (being the underdog) all the time. I know that, but it is understandable. He is hometown guy and a Mr. Kentucky football. He has actually started games and played. That's a plus for him," Hartline said. "That's why I really had to come and show myself. I feel like I competed well with good physical and mental toughness this spring. I definitely see myself as the underdog, but the coaches come in with a clean slate and don't worry about who you are. If you win the job, you win the job. That's how it is. In the coaches' eyes, that's all I look for. Nothing else really matters."

Maybe it would be best just to go into the season playing both quarterbacks. Or would it?

"That is a possibility. It has been shown in the last couple of years that dual quarterbacks can work," Hartline said. "I am not saying whether it works out that all Curtis would need to do is come in and run the ball because he definitely showed his throwing ability, too.

"But if you get in certain type schemes and face different teams, it is up to the coaches. I am definitely backing up my coaches 100 percent. Whoever they go with, I will be backing up Curtis and I hope he backs me up. It doesn't matter. One thing I have learned about the coaches since I have been here is that they know what they are talking about, so I trust them. I trust they will make the right decision whether it is in my favor or not."


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