The Kentucky Wildcats football program has an interesting battle on their hands within their own team this preseason—Senior leader Mike Hartline, sophomore standout Morgan Newton, and redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski are all battling to be the head General for Kentucky's offense in the 2010 football season.
Ever since the 2007 high-octane offense led by Andre Woodson, the Wildcats have been disappointing on that side of the ball. They have struggled in the air ever since Andre Woodson's senior class departed Lexington in '07.
The quarterbacks have struggled with being consistent, putting up numbers, hitting the open routes, and the deep ball. Basically the Wildcats offense has relied heavily on junior Randall Cobb in the backfield and out wide, and senior Derrick Locke rushing the ball.
Senior leader Mike Hartline, the 6'6" 205-pound little brother of Brian Hartline, wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, seems to have the early upper hand based purely on his experience—but just by a nudge.
Last season, Hartline threw for 802 yards and six touchdowns by completing 79 of 133 attempts. But he also threw seven interceptions.
Sophomore Morgan Newton, 6'4" 235 pounds from Carmel, Indiana, was a very highly-hyped quarterback coming out of high school. He was named to the All-American High School Football Team, ESPN/Rise Athlete of the Year in Indiana, Gatorade Football Player of the Year and also Indiana's Mr. Football.
He came to Lexington as a immediate impact player. Newton had a pretty good Freshman season sharing snaps with Mike Hartline. Newton threw for 706 yards and six touchdowns by completing 75 of 135 attempts and threw three interceptions. But, on top of that, Newton rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski looks to factor into the Wildcats offense after recovering from shoulder surgery. Mossakowski was highly touted coming out of high school as well.
He was named an All-American quarterback by SuperPrep and PrepStar magazines. The Wildcats coaching staff have nothing but good things to say about Ryan. They have said his shoulder has healed perfectly and he is a heady player that picked up the offense well for a true freshman.
Many factors play in to being a successful quarterback:
Experience plays a big factor into being a successful D1 shot caller. The quarterback has to be used to the speed of the game which is completely different and much faster than all other levels of play, with the obvious exception of the NFL.
Senior Mike Hartline has the obvious upper hand in this area by being the starter as a sophomore in the 2008 season and taking half the snaps as a junior in 2009 alongside true freshman Morgan Newton.
The quarterback must be able to read the opposing team's defense pre-snap and during duration of the play to make good decisions. They must be able to pick up on the defense's tendencies, read blitzes, read coverages, and find holes in zone defenses.
They must know the mismatches outside, know when to audible out of the current play based on the defense's alignment and front, etc.
One obtains this vast knowledge by years of experience, film study, and scouting reports on the opponents' tendencies and blitz packages—and practice.
Having a good football IQ and being able to read the defense will translate into good decisions throwing the ball downfield. It will also help to audible out of the original play to obtain yards based on the alignment tendencies of the defense.
A D1 quarterback has to be able to make things happen when things do not go his way due to a blitz breaking through his protection or even just his protection breaking down on a four man rush.
Morgan Newton has the obvious upper hand in this area over Hartline and Mossakowski. Newton can scramble and make things happen with his arm, and also tuck the ball away and make things happen with his legs.
Joker Phillips has given this season's Kentucky team a military theme—and rightfully so with the war going on to become the Wildcats General under center.
Kentucky fans: Be prepared to see three different quarterbacks during the course of the 2010 season.
Senior Mike Hartline will get the beginning season starting nod based solely on experience and leadership over Newton and Mossakowski. But expect sophomore star Morgan Newton to slide his way into the starting spot eventually as the course of the season unfolds.
Newton is the best of the three candidates overall and expect him to eventually make his way under center as the starter—much like he did last season.