Hartline later saw action against Vanderbilt where he struggled to a 2-6, 10 yards and one interception performance. With the young guns behind him (Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski), many believed that we may only see Hartline in a mop-up role for the rest of his career.
But the coaching staff gave Hartline more opportunities to win his job back, starting with spring practice. Hartline came out on top during the spring, but it was still close enough that Phillips would leave the job open going into fall camp. When Hartline came out on top again, Phillips knew he had his guy.
Hartline's 17-26, 217 yard game against the archrival Louisville Cardinals drew praise from the Kentucky coach. "I was very proud of Mike," said Phillips. "He's 3-0 as a starter against Louisville," Phillips continued.
But it's not just about the 3-0 record and Hartline's stats didn't blow your mind. The difference is the presence he showed on the field and his demeanor, which made him look like a different player than in years past.
"I really liked his pocket presence. He was able to get himself out of trouble. He fixed our protections to handle the pressure they sent at us," said Phillips. "I liked his whole presence yesterday," said coach Phillips.
Even when things didn't go as played, Hartline was able to improvise, another trait that we haven't seen from the senior. "When the hot route didn't do what they were supposed to do, he threw the ball away. He managed the plays that that somebody else might screw up," said Phillips.
With Hartline now showing the ability to make game winning plays and not just game managing plays, there should be a cautious optimism as to how good this team can really be. If he can get the ball into the hands of his play makers and keep the defense honest through the air, Kentucky's offense will be that much more effective.
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