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Hartline's experience a deciding factor

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FB 09_10 UK_Bama WEB 21.jpgIn the end, Mike Hartline's experience paid off.

It didn't matter that Hartline was the fans' odd man out, that Hartline is coming off knee surgery or that sophomore Morgan Newton had led UK to historic wins at Auburn and Georgia.

In the end, the way head coach Joker Phillips described it, the fifth-year senior gives the Kentucky football team the best chance to win - at least against Louisville on Sept. 4 for the season opener. Hartline was named the starter Monday to begin the season in favor of Newton and redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski.

"Right now we feel that Mike Hartline gives us the best chance to win," Phillips said. "He has been more efficient and is playing faster than the other two. At this point he gives us the best chance to win."

Some fans will groan and bemoan the decision Phillips made. Hartline's answer to some of the criticism he might receive should give all the indication about how ready he is to lead the offense.

"I've been through it all," Hartline said. "I'm ready. Like I said back at media day, no matter what happens I'm still going to be here. All that matters to me is my teammates, my coaching and my family. I'll go from there."   

From his unkempt beard to his newfound composure in interviews - remember, this is the same guy who had some choice words for his teammates when he lost the job a couple of seasons ago - Hartline carries himself in a different manner now. He's more mature, more confident.

He walks the walk and talks the talk of a fifth-year senior. Ultimately, that's what a coaching staff is looking for from the most important position on the field.

"Experience, I think, was a key factor," Hartline said. "You go out there and you try to play as fast as you can. I still have that acceleration as far as playing fast, keeping the guys on the field as far as the play clock, managing that, keeping the offense on the field and keeping the chains moving."

Phillips didn't say that Newton and  Mossakowski didn't do enough or lost the job. Quite the contrary.

At this current point in time, with 12 days left until the season-opener against archrival Louisville, Hartline was just the better man for the position. As Phillips said six times in the first five minutes of his announcement, Hartline gives UK "the best chance to win."

"You have guys like Morgan (who) has a cannon of an arm, can run all over the place," Hartline said. "Moss is really smart, just like Morgan. It pushes you in every aspect of being a quarterback, not just being able to throw the ball (but) being able to see things in the film room. Those guys are going to be a great talent soon in the future (but) being that it is my last season, I pushed really hard. I've done great things in the offseason, especially in the weight room, in the film room working with these guys."

Hartline speaks the truth. While the media cannot watch practice, listen from a guy who works inside the department: Hartline was the better quarterback.

There were rumblings from the scrimmage more than a week ago that Hartline was the leader in the clubhouse. That never changed from start to finish despite the open battle.

"He was slightly ahead at all times, there is no question about that, but he was not as far ahead to where we felt we had to make a decision," Phillips said. "If we would have made this thing in the spring or when we first started in fall camp, I don't think that it would have been fair to those other guys that are a little bit younger. We had to give those guys a chance to compete."

Newton and Mossakowski will continue to have a chance to compete. Phillips did not rule them out of playing later in the season, though he did say he will not have a quick trigger and will give Hartline a fair chance.

But for now, Mossakowski and Newton are relegated to battling it out for the No. 2 spot behind Hartline, a surprising revelation of just how far Mossakowski has come.

"No question (Mossakowski might see some time this year)," Phillips said. "He probably made the most improvement of any of them but he had farther to go than any of them also. He definitely is a factor. He has the stuff that you are looking for out of the quarterback."

As far as whom wins the No. 2 spot, that's still to be determined.

"We told those two guys that they are slashed," Phillips said. "That is an ongoing competition at this point in time. On Sept. 4, it will be a feel thing for what we need because they both do different things and it will be whatever we need at that point in time."

As one can understand, Newton did not take the news very easily and was visibly upset during interviews after practice.

"You come out here and you try to win, compete and put yourself in position to play and it doesn't work out, yeah (there is disappointment)," Newton said.

Mossakowski, who is coming off a redshirt year in which he rested an injured shoulder, had a different outlook on things.

"It's great because with this coaching staff I believe in all the things that they say and all the things that they do," Mossakowski said. "I really do. For me, I am going to support Mike 110 percent and I am going to be there if he needs anything. Game plan wise, if he needs me to do anything during the week I am going to be there for him week in and week out. It is a good decision."

There will almost certainly be some that will be disenchanted with the decision. Hartline's up-and-down career sparks enough debate to last the rest of the season.

But the bottom line is Phillips and his coaching staff made the right decision if all the rumors out of camp were true. If Hartline was really the better guy in the scrimmages and the guy with the most experience, why not go with him?

Say what you want about Hartline's play before last year, but the guy didn't have all that much of a shot last season. Two of his four full games were against defending national champion Florida and eventual national champion Alabama. When he did get rolling against South Carolina, he ended up hurt.

The coaching staff now believes he can pick up right where he left off.

"We felt that there was enough separation with the experienced guy because he is playing fast, is being most efficient in the things that we are wanting to get done," Phillips said. "He is the guy who won the job."

Finally, it's time to move forward to Louisville.

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1 Comment

Congrats to Hartline. For all that he has put up with, through poor fan support, injury, etc., he has perservered. I always thought similar to what was stated in this article; he was having a great season until the injury last year. He put up some great numbers and passes against Miami, and was solid until the injury at SC. Turnovers hurt us against Alabama, and Florida...well, they'll make a guy look bad. Kind of reminds me of another guy the fair-weather fans we have too much of in this program gave up on. Anyone remember a guy named Brooks and his first three seasons. I called that one too. JUST WATCH!

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  • Warren: Congrats to Hartline. For all that he has put up with, through poor fan support, injury, etc., he has perservered. read more