Next Year's Quarterback

Kentucky returns either an embarrassment of riches--or a lot of question marks at the quarterback position for next season. A healthy fifth-year senior Mike Hartline will return, along with sophomore Morgan Newton, who started the last seven games of the season this year. And let's not forget 5-star redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski, who may give both a run for their money.

A knee injury sidelined Hartline this season, which was his second consecutive season to begin as starting quarterback for the Cats. He was having his most productive day as a Wildcat quarterback in the first half at South Carolina--a game Kentucky eventually lost, 28-26--when he was injured on a play blown dead.

Hartline would bring something the other two quarterbacks can't match, the experience and maturity of being in a program for five years, and what he has gained through being the starting quarterback for more than a year.

They say the most popular player on a football team is the backup quarterback, and in many ways, that was true for Kentucky this year prior to Hartline's injury. When Hartline went down, the staff vacillated between playing junior Will Fidler and removing the anticipated redshirt from 4-star recruit Morgan Newton. So they did both.

Newton's play was just enough to beat out Fidler for primary quarterback, and eventually, the only quarterback after Hartline's injury. Newton showed promise at times, and at other times, looked like a freshman quarterback thrown into the middle of a season without adequate preparation, time or experience--which, of course, is exactly what he was.

Perhaps the biggest wildcard of all is the freshman whose redshirt remained this year, fellow 4-star recruit Ryan Mossakowski, a strong-armed pocket passer from Frisco, Texas. Mossakowski shunned first round major league baseball offers to sign with the Kentucky Wildcats, and redshirted this season while rehabilitating his shoulder. By all reports his shoulder healed 100%, and it may be a case of just returning to "football shape" for the big Texan to compete for the starting job next season.

Whose job is it to lose? It may not be that easy. The best guess here is that the job will be wide open in the spring, and may depend on who is the head coach at Kentucky next season. Will Rich Brooks stick with that "80% certainty" that he will step down as head coach of the Wildcats and allow Joker Phillips, the coach-in-waiting, to assume the head role? Or will that nagging 20%, and perhaps a desire not to leave Kentucky on the heels of two consecutive losses, have the 68-year old return to Kentucky one more season?

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