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Spring Game wrap-up: QB battle to continue

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FB 09_10 UK_TN WEB 32.jpgJoker Phillips wishes he could have named a starting quarterback Saturday, but that doesn't mean he came away disappointed.

"I'm not disappointed," Phillips said. "The reason I'm not disappointed is because I think we can win with all three of those guys. I really do."

Senior-to-be Mike Hartline came into Saturday's Blue/White Spring Game with a slight edge over sophomore Morgan Newton and redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski, but none of the three quarterbacks did anything to separate themselves heading into the summer.

"I think this competition is way too close to decide in April," Phillips said. "We'll carry this competition into August and hopefully we can come up with a decision quickly because we need that guy to get the majority of the number one snaps."

Hartline started the day with the "ones" and actually played quite well in spurts, but he still showed signs of inconsistency and tossed an opening-drive interception to linebacker Danny Trevathan.

"Personally I thought it was a sloppy game," said Hartline, who finished with 124 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-24 passing. "I think offensively we didn't play very well. The score says something entirely different. Out of the three scrimmages, I think it was the worst one we played. ... Little throws that we missed and receivers falling down - we just can't have that."

Hartline expressed his desire to take hold of the starting position following the final scrimmage of the season, but Phillips said Saturday was more about the younger quarterbacks' ability to catch up than it was about Hartline falling back to the pack.

"The thing I like about Morgan and Moss is they played in the stadium (in scrimmages) better than (they had early on in spring practice)," Phillips said. "They closed the gap more so than Mike came back to them. I'm happy with the progress those two guys made from day one. In day one there were some concerns with me. But since day 15 I've been happy with all three of them."

Newton, who started last year's second half of the season when Hartline went down with a knee injury, continued to show signs of both his potential and inexperience. On one such play, Hartline eluded two sacks, scrambled to his left and fired a 19-yard dart back across the field to wide receiver Gene McCaskill.

A few plays later, however, Newton (6-of-12 for 92 yards) came right back with a poorly underthrown interception in the end zone.

"We know that Morgan Newton can get himself out of trouble with his legs," Phillips said. "He has the ability to erase a lot of good plays."

Rumors have circulated that Mossakowski, who redshirted last season as he recovered from a shoulder injury, is making a push for one of the top two spots, and he showcased why Saturday. Although the stats (6-of-12 for 37 yards) didn't necessarily prove it, Mossakowski showcased a big arm and good pocket presence.

"It's basically just managing the game," Mossakowski said. "This is basically my first game that I've played in a year, year and a half since I got injured. Getting out (of the huddle), making sure the play clock had enough time and all those things was real important for me."

Former UK great Andre Woodson won the job four years ago during the summer progression. Hartline said he's hoping to do the same.

"I've just got to keep improving," Hartline said. "You don't take a step back. When there are chances to practice, you do them and you work with your guys. You stay on top of things and you don't take things for granted. I think right now, with me and my senior season, I don't want any what ifs at the end of my senior season. I'm putting it all out there on the line."

And so are Newton and Mossakowski. Phillips had hoped he would have a starter in place by the end of spring practice, but having three guys step up for the position isn't such a bad thing either.

"If I thought I couldn't win with any of them, I'd be disappointed because someone didn't step up," Phillips said.

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