VAUGHT: 1-on-1 with Mike Hartline

Hartline was injured midway of last season, but has bounced back from that knee injury with a solid spring. He shared his thoughts on his play and the team after last Saturday's scrimmage.

Senior quarterback Mike Hartline has surprised many by taking the lead to be Kentucky's starting quarterback when the Wildcats open the season against Louisville.

Hartline was injured midway of last season, but has bounced back from that knee injury with a solid spring. He shared his thoughts on his play and the team after last Saturday's scrimmage.

Question: How consistent do you think you have been in the spring?

Hartline: "I have been the most consistent that I have been and seeing that I am a senior, that's the way it need to be. It's no shock to coaches or players that is the way I am supposed to play. You have days that are worse than others, but you have to look at those days, improve on them and make sure they never happen again. I have had maybe one out of all the practices that I was very disappointed with. But the thing is you always have the next day and you have to improve on that and make it where it will never happen again for your team's benefit."

Question: How have you approached about trying to be No. 1 by the time spring practice ends?

Hartline: "You just take this week very seriously and not to shed any light on previous weeks, but you understand what is at stake and keep being consistent as a quarterback. There's not much to do other than be consistent, get the ball down the field and in the end zone. Everything else should take care of itself. Keep working with the guys, stay sharp and stay on top of things and not let a day go to waste."

Question: Did you approach this spring as though you were No. 1 fighting to keep your job or that you were not the starter and fighting to become No. 1?

Hartline: "I took it as I had to earn my starting spot back. No quarterback coach or head coach is just going to give somebody a position. No matter how good they are, if they don't show up in the spring they are not going to get it in the summer or fall. I took it as we were going to have great competition, I was going to be as confident as I can, study as much film as I can and just play my game. I have always told myself that in the previous years when I had to compete for a job and it has worked to my favor. You just have to stay confident in yourself and guys and understand what is expected out of you."

Question: Why is it that you seem more relaxed this spring than the previous two when it might appear there is more pressure on you to win your job back from Morgan Newton?

Hartline: "I think it is because of preparation. Being an older guy and I only have one year, one opportunity left. It goes by fast. I don't know want to have any what-ifs after this season, so you make everything count. I am doing this now and wish I had done it two or three years ago, but you shed light on what could be and couldn't be. I have less than a year left to prove I am a good football player and that people really respect that I am playing my heart out not only for myself, but for my family, my team and the fans. It is everything I want to do. Knowing the guy I am, I don't want to let anyone get in the way of that."

Question: But how have you avoided feeling any pressure?

Hartline: "You feel the pressure the first year. The sophomore year when you first get in, you try to make big plays. Now things are expected out of you and you know what you can do. I know my abilities and throws I need to make. I just have to make them all the time. I have to make the good calls all the time. It's tough to do that not in a place where you have to be perfect all the time, but you have to be sharp in every practice. Some guys can't do that in certain positions on the field. I have to make sure I keep everything intact, keep everything out of the way and keep priorities straight for my team."

Question: Does it help your confidence this spring that in the South Carolina game where you injured your knee that you were having perhaps your best game ever at Kentucky?

Hartline: "It does help. You understand where you can go and where you can be. Everything was so relaxed for me there even in that hostile environment. You understand if you prepare well and you work your butt off it can pay off for you. But things like that happen. You get injured and go down. Freak accidents happen and you have to respond. You either are going to get better or worse and I chose to get better. As you get better, you mentally get tougher and you can handle more and I think I have done that."

Question: Nothing helps a quarterback more than talented receivers, so how are the receivers?

Hartline: "They are great guys and are working so hard for a new coach, Tee Martin, who is so young and energetic. We are very deep as well, which is something a lot of people don't know. We have a lot of competition there. I won't be surprised if we go five, six or seven receivers deep in a good rotation this year.

"You have Brian Adams coming off a year he redshirted and he is looking as good as any freshman I have seen here. Randall Cobb is a sharp, athletic guy and you don't really have to say anything about him. The two tall guys, Chris Matthews and LaRod King, are always going to make plays. LaRod has hands like nobody I have ever seen. Same way with Chris. They are big, strong guys and they can get the football. Last year will help them tremendously. You see the field and understand what you have to do on the field to be successful and you see how fast the game is. To see that and see these guys practice this fast only makes you better. They will get to the games and want the ball and I have to know when they can and can't."

Question: How do you feel the offensive line under new coach Mike Summers is developing and finding ways to replace four starters from last year?

Hartline: "Coach Summers is a very humble guy off the field to be as intense as he is on the field. He is a very personable person, but at the same time he gets in your face. He has great connections with them and that's what offensive line needs.

"Despite the fact we lost four guys, the good news is that each of the positions has guys that have played before. Maturity and playing time will pay off. They have been working their butts off, too. We still have to clean up a few things and they have to understand certain checks, but they are working hard. In the past guys slowed down, but these guys move fast. They want to make plays and get in the end zone."

Question: So could the line be as good — or even better — than last year?

Hartline: "I think they can. They have a great -player relationship right now. They lean on each other very well and they are very motivated. They have a great guy in left guard Stuart Hines, the only guy coming back, and he is a great leader. These offensive linemen have great feet. They can run and move. They are just smart. Then you have a great coach like coach Summers, it is easy for them to make things easy on themselves and do what they are supposed to do."

Question: Will the Blue-White Game Saturday be a big deal to you or not?

Hartline: "It is always going to be big. I like the game environment. A lot of fans are here, so it is fun. I don't think I have ever won on, but I really want to get one. I don't think they will put me and (quarterback) coach (Randy) Sanders on the same team again. If they did, it would be an unfair advantage. Offensively, we have a lot of depth and it will be a good showing. I hope that it is just fun."

Question: Can running backs Donald Russell, a sophomore, and Jonathan George, a redshirt freshen, help this year behind Derrick Locke?

Hartline: "They have extremely high potential to be really good. They are still young, but they run really hard and make good cuts. The whole offense is not clicking for them yet. Sometimes they are not in the right spots where they need to be. They don't line up correctly, hear the call or do the snap right. But once they get the football, you better watch out. They are either going to spin one off you or run you over. They can both catch balls out of the backfield. They have good hands. It's just that they sometimes are a little hesitant on where they are lined up and what they are supposed to do and that might cause them to juggle the ball, but they have good hands and I feel comfortable throwing to them. It is great to get them the football in space and they have a great leader helping them out in Derrick. They just have to catch on a little bit faster and move a little faster when it comes to hearing the calls."


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